WHEN the most recent crime figures were released, they revealed that recorded crime had risen at the fastest rate for a generation. The last time our communities suffered a surge on this scale was in 1992, the year of Black Wednesday.
In Yorkshire and the Humber, overall crime is up by 18 per cent, which is more than the national average. Violent offences have risen by a staggering amount – by a third across the region. Although, worryingly, in South Yorkshire that figure is closer to two thirds. Domestic burglary, harassment and stalking offenses and public order offences have also risen alarmingly across the region.
The Conservatives like to pretend it has nothing to do with them; they insist it’s just coincidence that crime is starting to rocket after the Government cut more than 21,000 police officers nationally.
But, ask yourself, when was the last time you saw a bobby on the beat in your community? For many it was a very long time ago. Last year, two fifths of people said they never see officers on foot patrol, and the truth is our communities are exposed.
The reality is stark.
Here in Yorkshire and the Humber, our police forces have lost 1,970 police officers since 2010. Officer numbers are down by 19 per cent in Humberside, 11 per cent in North Yorkshire, 16 per cent in South Yorkshire and the same in West Yorkshire. In addition to this loss of police officers, our region has also lost 361 PCSOs.
So with our police at breaking point, what has the Conservative Government chosen to do?
Rather than give our police the funding they have asked for to fight soaring crime and keep us safe, the Tories chose instead to slash Home Office support to local forces by £100m in real terms over the next year. To put that into context, that money would pay for about 2,000 police officers nationwide.
To add insult to injury they expect hard-pressed local taxpayers to cover the cost of those real-terms cuts. Forces which have seen the biggest loss in officers will gain the least from this plan.
The Government cannot say they weren’t warned about the consequences of doing this. The UK’s most senior police chiefs wrote to Ministers last year and told them in no uncertain terms that if the police weren’t properly funded it would “expose gaps in the protection of the public”, neighbourhood policing would all but fade away, and you can forget about the fight against anti-social behaviour.
Last June, the chief constable of West Yorkshire Dee Collins said: “I am extremely proud of my officers and staff, many of who are exhausted, having worked incredibly long hours to meet demand and manage large-scale incidents in the past few months. However, our resources will only stretch so far and my concern is just how sustainable this in the long term, without an uplift in funding and resources.”
Ministers have failed to heed her warning and the warnings of senior officers and police and crime commissioners.
I hope MPs will not make the same mistake.
The test of this will come later today when every Member of Parliament will have the chance to vote in the House of Commons on Conservative plans for yet another year of real-terms cuts for the police. The police are dealing with soaring crime as well as filling in for cuts to other public services.
Labour is calling on the Government to urgently think again and come back with a fair settlement that properly protects our communities. And we are calling on Tory MPs – including many here in Yorkshire and the Humber – to stand up for their constituents by voting down Theresa May’s latest cuts to police budgets. Tinkering around the edges after nearly eight years in which they have undermined officers and eroded the police budget simply won’t do it.
Labour has a plan to make Britain safer and protect our communities. We would recruit 10,000 officers to fight rising crime and restore the model of neighbourhood policing eroded by the Tories but that proved so successful in the past.
The first duty of any government is to keep its citizens safe. The Government needs to remember that.
Louise Haigh is Shadow Policing Minister and Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley.