Policing of the 2004 Sidmouth Festival.

Probably largely as a sop to Steve Heap, East Devon District Council (EDDC) promised a crackdown on illegal trading along the Esplanade during the 2004 Sidmouth International Festival. In the event, street trading went on much as before with some minor stalls being asked to move on. The police were much in evidence but appeared to take little or no part in proceedings.

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Traders operated all week from the Esplanade, some even attached their goods to the EDDC 'No Trading' signs!

EDDC seized the opportunity to enter the prestigious 'worst designed public notice' competition and were awarded first prize in the 'illegibility' section. Their entry is shown below. Can you read it easily? Neither could most other people. More details of action taken against traders are given on the next page - but first, a few words about the police in Sidmouth.

There was stiff competition too for 'most ineffective and/or lazy police officer'. A friend was strolling one night along the Esplanade (which is an alcohol free zone) and passed several sets of police officers walking in pairs. None of them took any notice of the piles of broken glass and vomit that are a regular tourist attraction in Sidmouth. Broken glass and bottles littering the beach - where children would be playing next day -  were similarly ignored. She asked why they were failing to undertake the simple job for which they were being well paid. The answers appeared to have a lot to do with the philosophy of "see no crime, hear no crime, report no crime" - a splendid way of ensuring that performance targets are met.

It was a similar story on Saturday 7 August. The folkies had gone and the town was swarming with litter louts and cyclists making a nuisance of themselves along the Esplanade (where cycling is not permitted). I first espied three lazy police officers (two of them young girls) in our popular fish and chip shop in Fore St. It took them a long time to stroll leisurely around town eating their lunch. They later wandered onto the Esplanade and along to the western end where they relaxed after a hard day's work by leaning against the railings in the sunshine and having a long chat. Litter louts, illegal cycling, drivers using mobile phones and boy racers making a nuisance of themselves were never even given a second glance.

Residents and hoteliers have been complaining for years about the lack of effective policing along the Esplanade and in the town centre of Sidmouth. It is therefore good to read in the EDDC Joint Performance and Council Tax summary for 2004/2005:

The police service faces many competing demands, having to respond with vigour to both local and national priorities...The year ahead is another important one for this police service as we look to build on our successes and to meet the aspirations of local people and the government.

There are three important questions: who in EDDC or the Police Service writes all this rubbish, why do we bother to pay them and when is local government in Sidmouth going to get its act together?

And now for the most legible public notice of the year - it really is as bad as it looks on your screen, including the 'round' sign being a distinct oval shape. Talk about 'seeing red'!

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