Conservatives Abandon Victims of Crime – “Heartstrings v Heartless”
I don’t think anyone was more surprised than me when at last nights (16 January 2012) Northampton Borough Council meeting the Conservatives made it absolutely clear that they are no longer “the Party of Law and Order” when they all voted against a Labour motion to reverse the cuts to Police Community Support Officers, Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) and the switching off of the streetlights across the town.
The motion read,
‘This Council notes that this Conservative Administration is proposing to cut funding for Public Safety services, most notably funding for Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and Closed Circuit Television (CCTV).
This Council also notes the previous decision of the Conservative Northamptonshire County Council to switch off many streetlights in Northampton. This has resulted in many residential areas plunged into darkness across the town. Many residents oppose the County Council’s decision to switch off our streetlights.
This Council believes cutting funding for PCSOs, CCTV and Streetlights is folly as the general public will feel unsafe and at risk. This Council further believes the Conservative Administration is out of touch with the general public and these key issues.
This Council asks the Conservative Administration to reconsider and reverse their budget proposal on Public Safety services’.
A reasonable and sensible motion most people would think calling for the administration to reverse the cuts that are putting the public at risk, but even more surprising was some of the comments the Conservatives made during the debate.
Members of the public spoke for the motion giving direct knowledge on behalf of residents associations across the town, and personal experience of the impact of the increase in crime on them, their friends and their neighbours.
The public speakers and opposition councillors raised concerns that have been raised with them by people in Northampton and gave other examples of crime, both serious and anti-social to justify the call to reverse what is a nonsensical decision to effectively abandon the Councils support of the police.
So what was the response from the Conservative Leaders that was so surprising?
Councillor David Mackintosh, the Leader of the Council gave a very clear indication of his attitude when he clearly stated that this was a ‘balancing the books’ policy and that the Borough Council had no responsibility for public safety policing and was supported in his view by a senior cabinet member who stated “Policing is the responsibility of the police and not the Council who are not responsible and should only fund services to the public”, surprising because it was a Conservative administration who promised in 2005 and 2007 to fund public protection PCSOs.
In itself we should have expected this response bearing in mind that the last thing Cllr Mackintosh did before resigning from the County Council Cabinet to become the Leader of the Borough was to cut £500,000 from Police funding.
What is interesting about this response is Cllr Mackintosh had earlier defended the appointment an additional political assistant to the Leader of the Council to,
“help in what is a busy office and demanding job”
– just as a slight digression but if the Leader of the Council hasn’t the time to do the job perhaps he should stand down as a County Councillor and concentrate on his role on the Borough and not use taxpayer’s money on what will be seen as another spin doctor –
The most surprising and what I believe revealed the true colours of the new Northampton Conservative Leadership was when a number of them during the debate belittled the publics and oppositions use of examples of the impact of crime on victims to explain why the policy should be reversed by saying that the public and opposition were “just tugging at the heartstrings” claiming that the policy was an economic necessity to balance the books, which of course is nonsense when we are talking of no more than £200,000 in an organisation that has over £80 million in investments and reserves.
Will the Conservative Councillors now be telling victims of burglary, robbery, violent crime, vehicle theft, domestic abuse, racial abuse and constant anti-social behaviour making their lives misery when they contact them for help “Not really my problem, not my responsibility and don’t try tugging at my heartstrings, helping you isn’t an economic necessity”
What the debate revealed was the new heartless Conservatives and I should in fairness say that I have with some sympathy for those within the Borough Conservatives who I know are really opposed to the policy but have been told in no uncertain terms that they have to support it or suffer the consequences, which is perhaps why they all voted for the cuts last night.
This is a policy that will come back to haunt the Northampton County and Borough Conservatives as crime increases and the public see the visible police presence reduce and start to feel that there are areas of the town where they feel are so unsafe that they almost become no go areas.
My plea will be “don’t blame the police” it is the Conservative Councils who are cutting resources not the police.
What will haunt them even more is the heartless “tugging at the heartstrings” comments, every time they stand up in the future to talk about how they are supporting the vulnerable, elderly, disabled, homeless and victims of events the like of which we have unfortunately seen in Northampton in recent months people will be asking
“who are you kidding, which heart string was that pulling on”?