Mike Pannett: Driven to take a stand by police cuts madness

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AFTER fighting against policing cuts for nearly four years, I am hugely relieved that the Government has seen sense in suspending further cuts. However, I’m genuinely appalled that it took a terrorist atrocity in Paris to persuade the Government to do so rather than genuine concerns about the safety and quality of residents.

I am not a politician, but I was born and bred in North Yorkshire and my heart and soul is in our county. I have come to a point, as have many, where I simply cannot abide another five years of political nonsense from Westminster. This has led to unchallenged Government policy being channelled through a weak Police and Crime Commissioner, and is having a profound effect on the delivery of our local policing in North Yorkshire.

I cannot stand by and watch policing levels and capacity regressing back to the 1970s. We are all sick and tired of being spoon-fed government spin that crime is falling and all is well in frontline policing. This simply isn’t what we are experiencing right in front of our eyes. We are experiencing rising crime and anti-social behaviour in our towns and cities – not the picture painted by the Government and some current PCCs.

For these reasons, I am going to stand for election as an independent candidate in the North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner election in May. It is a daunting prospect for any ordinary person. Politically, this is a Conservative county and I do not have the machinery of a major political party funding me and oiling the election campaign wheels.

However, what we are seeing develop within policing both nationally and in North Yorkshire certainly doesn’t chime with the traditional values of any “party of law and order” that I recognise.

Do not relax at the Chancellor’s recent announcement of no further cuts to policing. It is not over yet and battle is just over the horizon. The Government was recently sent back to the drawing board with its bungled new police funding formula; a formula that was so far off the mark for the policing of North Yorkshire it was frankly incredible. It would have meant the loss of an additional £16m of central funding for our county.

I’m going to roll up my sleeves and get stuck in, and I’ll take no nonsense. I despise political spin and I will make no apology to Westminster for being a plain-speaking Yorkshireman fighting for the effective policing of my home county. As my Dad would say: “You can either shout from the touchline or put your boots on and get stuck in, lad.”

I believe that policing and politics should be kept separate. Policing should serve and protect all people, regardless of their political stance, and the PCC should represent those people and challenge the policing of the county from an independent position unencumbered by party politics.

In policing we often hear about the “multi-agency” approach, where various agencies work together, but we have yet to see this implemented in a true working model. Our most vulnerable in society often become “part of the system” when an early intervention and identification could have prevented it.

Competing demands and budgets within partner agencies mean that the police often become the agency of last resort, plugging the gaps when people are in crisis and in desperate need of help. We want to establish an in-depth multi-agency solution to ensure that people who need help get the right help at the right time and from the right people.

The impact of the Comprehensive Spending Review has seen the police becoming more of a reactive service, with targets and measurements all being made in response to reported crime rather than prevention.

We want a force that by virtue of “boots on the ground” is visible, accessible and engaging with our communities to deter and prevent crime and anti-social behaviour rather than merely responding to it. We want our police to be available to residents and offer reassurance and a familiar face they can have confidence and confide in.

North Yorkshire is one of the safest places in the whole country, yet that doesn’t mean we can be complacent. It’s a simple age-old truth that criminals will seek to exploit nice places and are only deterred by the risk of getting caught. I am also aware of the under-reporting of rural crime.

We will all be aware of someone who has not reported a crime to the police – this was highlighted in the Rural Crime Survey and the main reasons were lack of confidence in the police and insurance premiums.

The reported crime picture is therefore the tip of the iceberg. I want to know the true picture so that the police can properly plan and resource a response. Our first line of defence is our police who must be focused on what concerns the communities they protect.

Mike Pannett is a former police officer and bestselling author who intends to stand as an Independent in next year’s police and crime commissioner election in North Yorkshire.