The police and their priorities

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THE CHIEF Constable of Humberside Police’s suggestion that austerity has led to an increase in crimes needs to be placed in wider context.

THE CHIEF Constable of Humberside Police’s suggestion that austerity has led to an increase in crimes needs to be placed in wider context.

Justine Curran is not another senior public servant demanding a blank cheque. In order to accrue savings of £30m, her force is shedding 800 staff – 200 officers and 600 civilian workers – over the next five years. To maintain the positive progress that was made by her widely-respected predecessor Tim Hollis, she is restructuring local police teams so more officers can be deployed to crime hotspots.

Yet, despite this flexible approach to policing, it would be remiss of Ministers if they responded to Ms Curran by simply highlighting the nationwide fall in crime that has taken place since 2010.

It is more nuanced than the ritual reeling off of statistics. This trend has not been replicated across the whole country – Humberside has recorded an increase in crime and it is no coincidence that this area continues to be blighted by above-average levels of deprivation and unemployment.

As such, it is imperative that chief constables work in tandem with crime commissioners and Ministers to ensure that the police have the resources to respond to upturns in shoplifting when they happen. Early intervention is critical if the offenders concerned are not to graduate to more serious crimes, a point that Ms Curran made when she asked if there was an over-emphasis on crime figures. Day-to-day incidents, she says, account for just 20 per cent of her Constabulary’s work, with the rest of time spent on building community links.

The Home Office needs to recognise this when it comes to the allocation of future resources. Preventing crimes from taking place is just as important as bringing perpetrators to justice. The law-abiding public expect and deserve nothing less.

A helping hand

Housing scheme is vindicated

IN some respects, the relatively modest number of people to benefit from the Government’s flagship Help to Buy scheme – the figure is just 2,780 across Yorkshire – is helpful to David Cameron because it demonstrates that this policy is not fuelling the housing boom.

The latest statistics also suggest that this is a sincere attempt by the coalition to help first-time buyers; 85 per cent have involved beneficiaries purchasing their first property and only a tiny number involved transactions in London.

Opinion is divided over the scheme’s future prospects – it remains to be seen if the likelihood of a rise in interest rates, coupled with strict new criteria for mortgages, will be detrimental to the housing market.

Yet the fact that 74 per cent of homes bought through Help to Buy are new-build properties suggests there is still a strong demand for housing, even though the recovery is a tentative one across the North.

As such, the Government needs to make it easier – where possible – for brownfield sites to be regenerated with special grants to pay for the decontamination of land. If this happens – and the 1,000 homes now planned for the Kirkstall Forge site in Leeds are a case in point – the increased supply will help to keep prices in check and make it easier for younger people to buy a property.

However it requires a far more coherent planning policy for this to happen, one which recognises the fact that Britain has simply not been building sufficient houses for too long.

A love of reading

The power of cycling literature

THE battle of wills between the Education Secretary and his critics over whether British or American writers should take precedence on the English curriculum should not detract from the primary objective – the need to engender a love of reading and books.

It is why the programme of events planned for the forthcoming Big Bookend Festival in Leeds deserves the public’s support.

The headline act – Alan Bennett – could not be more synonymous with the West Yorkshire city where he grew up, or with classic writing on both sides of the Atlantic.

Yet, while sports tomes may not be on Michael Gove’s reading list, books about cycling could not be more popular and this is reflected by the specially-written Tour de France stories that will be told at the festival. If these help youngsters to pick up a book, or download an e-book, for the first time, it can only help to broaden their horizons and come to appreciate English Literature lessons. Let’s hope Mr Gove’s infamous snobbery does not puncture this hope.