EVER SINCE Theresa May brought in Tom Winsor to investigate police practices, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary has specialised in making life uncomfortable for officers who have fostered and condoned questionable behaviour for years.
His latest discovery is the deeply disturbing fact that almost a million crimes have been disappearing from official police figures each year as reported offences go unrecorded, particularly violent crime and sex attacks, as forces try to meet official targets for certain offences and, according to Mr Winsor, are also afflicted by poor training, poor leadership and general incompetence.
Clearly, the public need to be reassured that, when they report a crime to police, they will be believed and the offence taken seriously.
This point, of course, is particularly pertinent in this region given the failure of South Yorkshire Police to prevent the rape and sexual abuse of thousands of teenage girls and the subsequent resignation of the police commissioner, Shaun Wright, which Mrs May highlighted yesterday as exemplifying the new accountability she has brought to the police.
The Home Secretary cannot afford to be complacent about her achievements, however. The onus is now on Mrs May to act swiftly on her Chief Inspector’s findings and it is gratifying that she has further plans to reform police disciplinary procedures and grant greater protection for those brave enough to blow the whistle on dubious practices.
However, until there is a system in place whereby the public can really hold police commissioners to account during their term of office – rather than rely on trying to shame them into resignation, as was the case with Mr Wright – Mrs May should not claim any success.
Indeed, this matter is even more important now that the under-recording of crimes is revealed as part of the ingrained culture of police forces across the country and action is urgently needed to bolster the public’s increasingly fragile trust in those charged with keeping them safe.
The depleted countryside
WHAT DO we want our countryside to become? A living, working environment in which local families and businesses can thrive alongside a healthy tourist industry? Or a vast heritage museum sustained for the benefit of visitors and second-home owners but from which indigenous farming families are slowly being extinguished?
This is the question at the heart of the summit meeting in Leyburn today, called by Richmondshire District Council and The Yorkshire Post, to discuss key issues facing the countryside, such as the lack of affordable housing, the shortage of job opportunities and the continued cuts to essential services.
In many cases, of course, the sheer resourcefulness of those who live and work in rural England is overcoming these difficulties. There is, for example, the work of former head teacher Linda Cork who brought two Dales schools together to overcome their dwindling pupil numbers. Or the increasing number of volunteers who take it on themselves to run the bus services that reduced council budgets can no longer afford.
Try as they might, however, the commitment of these stalwart supporters of rural communities cannot stem the continued exodus of young people who must reluctantly migrate to towns and cities in search of jobs and homes.
In the end, a long-term future for the countryside, one inclusive of all generations, can only be achieved by decision-makers coming together to reach agreement on such thorny issues as new housing, levels of industrial development and the funding of key services.
And this is why today’s meeting will hopefully be an important staging-post on the long road to securing a viable future for rural Yorkshire.
It could be you
Why the Lottery is a winner
IT IS hardly the most efficient method of giving to charity. Nor are the odds of winning the sort that will attract the committed gambler.
Nevertheless, 20 years after its introduction, the National Lottery has become a British success story, creating more than 3,700 millionaires and raising more than £32bn for good causes.
The brainchild of John Major, who defied fierce opposition to bring the Lottery to life, it is his greatest legacy. From the renaissance of Britain’s Olympic fortunes and the success of the London Games to the revival of museums and theatres and the underwriting of cultural life across the country, the Lottery has proved itself time and again.
It may create thousands of losers every week, but the Lottery itself is a clear winner.