In November 2018, I wrote a letter to the Home Secretary highlighting the effects of underfunding in Cleveland police. This followed an alarming report on the national BBC News exposing a lack of police numbers in Hartlepool. My letter was co-signed by every Labour MP in the Cleveland police area, yet to date I have had no response.
Since 2010, this small force has lost 500 serving police officers and 50 PCSOs. That is a 37% reduction in staffing, alongside a budget cut of £39 million. The title of the BBC News documentary was “Hartlepool: The town where ‘police don’t come out’”. It revealed that on an average Saturday night the town, which has a population of some 96,000, had only 10 officers on shift. The film exposed the severity of Government cuts to policing and struck fear into our communities. It was seen as an open advert to criminals and has left citizens feeling under threat. The awareness of a lack of visible policing has led to increased reports from constituents of their concerns, including a noticeable trend in failure to attend reported crimes, despite the fact that Cleveland police records 163 crimes a day on average.
We all know that police forces face increased and complex challenges such as cyber-crimes. Cleveland police are no different and have successfully adapted to meet such demands. Working with partner agencies, they have created a strong focus on crime prevention, tackling drug dealing and human trafficking. But they too recognise the need to invest more in visible policing across the force area. They readily admit that
“things in policing are not ok” and that the service is
“nowhere near where it needs to be.”
Last month, the custody suite at Hartlepool police station was mothballed, meaning that officers now have to make a 30-mile round trip to Middlesbrough, just to take people into custody—a ludicrous situation given staffing numbers and the already existing fear about safety on our streets. While I do not agree with that decision, the reality is that underfunding to the tune of £39 million, or 26% in real terms, from Government grants over the last seven years is taking its toll. In order to help Cleveland police keep the streets of Hartlepool safe, the Government need to make urgent improvements to the funding formula, and not just allow for increases in police precepts, which both penalise local taxpayers and push the perception of blame on to local forces.
The current situation is simply not good enough and our hardworking officers and PCSOs deserve better.