Earlier in the year Northampton at the request of Northampton North MP Michael Ellis received a visit from the Home Secretary, Theresa May to look at the excellent work being carried out in the Eastfield area by the police and in particular the PCSO’s.
It has to be said that Michael Ellis has never wavered in his support for the police and the criminal justice system which as a barrister is what you would expect, but is actually what he really believes.
Brian Binley, MP for Northampton South is also a great supporter of the police and in fact in his last Summer 2011 Northampton Matters leaflet actually states under a heading A Fair Share for Police that,
‘Brian constantly calls for more money for the policing, and this year was no exception. He regularly asked the previous Government to review the funding formula and the damping mechanism which gives us less money per citizen than almost every other force’.
“Northampton has little to thank the previous Government for”, said Brian. “I hoped the present Government would do better, so I arranged for a delegation to meet with the Police Minister, Nick Herbert. He understood the problem and said he hoped to do better next year which was an improvement on the previous Government but it was not enough. Nick Herbert knows I won’t give up, and he knows I will expect a better deal next year”.
Contrast that with the reality of the actions taken by their Conservative colleagues at the County and Borough Councils who have cut the funding to the police, (and lets remember this is taxpayers money not the Councils), by over £600,000 which is going to see a reduction in the number of PCSO’s by somewhere in the region of 25 posts.
There are also cuts in CCTV across Northampton and cuts to licensing and community safety budgets which taken along with the switching off of street lights will almost certainly lead to the public not only feeling increasingly unsafe but in fact makes Northampton an increasingly unsafe place to live
Ken Clarke MP, the Minster for Justice warned that Britain was in danger of an increase in acquisitive crime, that’s burglary, robbery, car crime to you and me, and we should remember that robbery involves the use or the threat of the use violence.
Three quarters of police forces have reported a rise in burglary of more than 9 per cent compared with the same time last year and in what is turning out to be a very serious ‘austerity crime wave’.
The facts are as I warned as long ago as 2008, and it gives me and many others no satisfaction to say we told you so that with a recession there is an inevitable increase in crime which is why the police should receive more support not less and yes that means at the very least the same level of funding that they have now and wherever possible an increase.
One of the major problems is that people who are hit by the recession with the latest figures showing the highest level of unemployment for 17 years with 128,000 losing their jobs in the last month alone means that there is an increased susceptibility to accept stolen goods.
Recessions also see an increase in domestic violence, and increased drugs and alcohol related crimes especially among the young who are being increasingly marginalised by a system that gives them little hope of employment.
So what is the approach and attitude of Northampton Borough Council Conservatives and Councillor David Mackintosh who is the person who made the cuts in police funding and support as the Cabinet Member of the County Council and now as Leader of the Northampton Borough Council?
“I challenge the police to fund the officers themselves” he said,
“The police can raise their share of the council tax if they want and I think that’s something they should consider”.
In effect what Councillor Mackintosh is saying is that the Borough Council are not going to increase the council tax which of course politically is something that is great to claim as a headline (Look at us aren’t we great) but wants the police to raise the £650,000 by increasing tax. Or to put it another way Northampton Taxpayers will see a rise in their council tax bill to cover the Council cuts if the police raise the precept, which they will need to do if the same level of service is to be delivered to ensure public safety– but don’t worry it will not be the Conservative County or Borough Council who have done it.
Councillor Mackintosh goes on to say,
“They also need to look at the money they’ve got in the bank and I’ll be writing to them to suggest this “
Well just as a matter of interest the Northampton Borough Council has over £50 million invested which perhaps the Conservative administration need to look at before endangering the publics safety.
and finally and perhaps most staggering is his statement that
“We’re doing our part in community safety, but I think policing is an issue for the police”
In effect, it is nothing to do with us or with me, this from the Leader of the Borough Council who only weeks ago was talking about working tirelessly for the people of Northampton and who is now saying public safety, policing, CCTV, street lights et all is an issue that he doesn’t think is his or the administrations concern.
I’m certain not all of the Borough Conservative Councillors agree with him and neither will the public, but as the Leader of the Council he is speaking on behalf of the administration and the administrations public safety policy.
What is even more worrying is that the Conservatives on the Borough and County Councils will be promoting a Conservative Police Commissioner next year who if they support the current policy will undermine the police service in Northamptonshire through a lack of committed support and further endanger the public.
I have always and will continue to support the police and it has always been an issue at which I have been at odds with my former colleagues, the public are now faced with a dilemma, which is should they in future forget about contacting the Borough and County over Community Safety concerns and go straight to the police?
The police who will have fewer resources to deal with any and all public safety issue because of the policy of the Borough and County Councils but who predictably will then be criticised by local councillors for not doing their job.
It is political gerrymandering of the worst kind designed to move the blame for the inevitable increase in crime from the policies of both councils to the senior management of the police, fortunately the people of Northampton will not be fooled and have already seen through it.