Tough on Crime or Tough on Talk?
Sometimes you can’t help having to come back to a common issue and crime is one that keeps raising its head as the country dives even deeper into recession and austerity with crime as the latest statistics show increasing.
If ever there was a time for those who are involved in the detection, identification, arrest and incarceration of criminals to wonder if politicians really support that time is now and the recent decisions and events both locally and nationally scream out – “NO THEY DON’T”
Two years ago the Conservatives stood on a platform of a strong approach to criminal activity, they talked constantly of an unswerving commitment to increasing visible policing a welcome “feet on the beat” approach to be backed up by stronger sentencing policies and increased prison places.
For years Brian Binley MP for Northampton South has called for increased funding for the Northamptonshire Police supported by the County Council Conservatives who in their 2005 manifesto announced that they were committed to funding 60 additional PCSO’s and by the Borough Conservatives in their 2011 manifesto promising to support the police.
This is not an unnatural position for the Conservatives who have always portrayed themselves as the party of Law and Order accusing the opposition of being weak on crime and those who commit crime.
Even in his Northampton Matters of Summer 2011 Brian Binley said and I’ll quote in full,
Brian constantly calls for more money for policing, and 2011 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”
Tough talk that a great number of people would agree with and support but which as it turn out have unfortunately been shown to be just that – Tough talk and strong rhetoric that is not backed up by action.
What we have actually seen is both the Conservative Northamptonshire County Council and Conservative Northampton Borough Council renege on their promises to support the police and without a single word of censure from the MP for Northampton South.
To his credit Michael Ellis, MP for Northampton North has come out and criticised the cuts to police funding.
What is really making people angry is that having criticised the previous Government for failing to adequately fund the police, claiming that the shortage of money was the prime reason for the policing issues in Northampton we now have the two Conservative Council Leaders, Councillor Jim Harker and Councillor David Mackintosh suddenly saying “the police have received enough funding and are awash with money, which is why we (the Councils) are going to cut funding for PCSO’s and without a word of censure from Mr Binley MP –
– WHAT A COMPLETE ABOUT TURN BY THE CONSERVATIVES –
An about turn from Conservatives who will at future elections continue no doubt to claim they are supporting the police and ask the people to trust them.
At the other end of the criminal justice system we have seen sentencing getting softer, cuts in prison officers which when the results of enquiries are released will be shown to have been a significant contributory factor in the riots and burning down of Ashwell and Ford Prisons.
The cuts in the Prison Services have led to warnings from the Prison Officers Association that there is a real danger of “serious incidents” in prisons and they do not have the staff resources to deal with them.
The warnings have also been given by many senior Prison Governors and we know that they have been asked to look carefully at the contingency plans to deal with a “serious incident” including withdrawing all staff from the prison and making the perimeter secure, in effect abandoning the prison to the prisoners.
It is an issue that isn’t remote from Northampton with two prisons in the County at HMP Wellingborough and HMP Onley with many of the staff living in the town.
You would think the Ministry of Justice would be taking the fears very seriously but instead we find that the Ministry is spending over £2 million a month on consultants and over £43 million in the last year.
These are consultants from the private sector who have been brought in to “advise on the most efficient way to run prisons”, “to advise on how to privatise prison” and “how to cut staffing levels”.
It’s reminiscent of the County Council spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on consultants to be told how to save hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Tough on Crime? Hardly.
On a lesser scale we have Andrea Leadsom the Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire calling for criminal action to be taken against cyclists who ride on the footpaths endangering the public and especially pedestrians, a tough stance which many may well agree with.
It’s ironic that not a word of criticism of the County Council for switching off the street and footpath lights over the cycle paths making it dangerous for cyclists at night, or the danger the decision has posed to the elderly, disabled, those with mobility problems and those who are simply scared to go out at night.
It is another example of the Conservatives Tough on Talk – Weak on Support approach to crime.
Which brings us back to the claims that Conservatives will be and are the party who are tough on crime and anti-social behaviour?
The actions and decisions taken locally and nationally don’t support their claims, in fact just the opposite.
Conservatives across the whole of the Public Safety and Crime agenda are now the party who are “Tough on Talk – Weak on Support” of the police, probation, prison and most importantly the public.
It will be a massive challenge for those working in the Criminal Justice system and I finish with a question,
Can you spot the flaw in the County and borough Council argument for cutting police funding which is
“It is the police authority who should pay for policing and not the taxpayer”?