Today saw the official launch of the National Panel's report into the riots that hit London and other parts of the country in August.
As someone who was caught up in the riots, in Ealing Common, I welcome the report. Like all reports it is a large document with many findings, which we mostly agree with. It still seems like yesterday when we lost one of Ealing's residents, Richard Mannington Bowes, in the riots. I am glad his killer admitted his mistakes recently.
With my Liberal Democrat Leader's hat on, the panel is correct to state there were many factors that led to the riots and there is not one silver bullet that would stop another riot from happening again. I think it is crucial to firstly state that anyone who stole or caused damage to property or people, they had no excuse.
Anyone found guilty needed the legal system to show them and society at large that sort of behaviour was totally immoral and wrong.
Speaking to the owners of businesses in Central Ealing they are still feeling the problems - the glass and physically damage to their shops may have been repaired but some have not received any insurance. And others do not feel as safe as they had done so before.
There are certainly many actions which need to be taken by the Government, councils, schools, the police and parents to both increase opportunities for the unemployed, prevent re-offending, improve parenting and react quicker when problems arise. I will be asking Ealing Council what it is planning to do in reaction to the Panel’s conclusions as each institution needs to play their part.
Only if the police become more reactive with an ability to get out extra police on the streets quickly, when the usual 9 to 5 day has ended can we be really ready if another riot occurred. The council does a lot of good work with young people and so this needs to be supported - we need to look at each recommendation and see which ones relate to Ealing Council and then make changes to improve things. Schools and parents need to ensure that kids and teenagers are brought up with a clear knowledge of what is wrong and right. I am sure in most cases this does happen but when this does not occur I do not feel that schools should be fined. I think the panel were wrong on this point.
Instead it is better for schools with government working more closely to identify those who appear to be having, or more likely to more likely to be having, issues - so they can get help.
The current Government and the previous one, had strategies to help what are termed as "Troubled Families". Expanding this may indeed help things a lot but as the report says it is not a simple matter. The idea of young offenders being mentored when they finish their prison sentences makes total sense as reoffending is a blight on our prison regime which has failed as long as I have lived.
I hope the report is widely read and that all the institutions in it do what they need to, to improve things in our community.