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Crime, antisocial behaviour and the lack of visible policing is the biggest issue that I face when I am out on the doorsteps talking to my constituents. With the indulgence of the House, I will quickly read out an email that I received from one of my constituents; it exactly epitomises what I hear day in, day out.
My constituent says:
“I have lost count of the amount of times I have rang both the police and fire brigade because of youths trying to and succeeding in lighting fires on the playing field and also to the rear of my property. They are stealing wheelie bins, people’s fences and various items from the back of the shops to set on fire. There is also large groups of youths hanging around in the area. There are motor bikes and quads flying around like they are untouchable”—
I can vouch for that because I nearly got knocked flying myself by one the other week—
“both on the roads, the paths and the children’s playing field. There is drug dealing (that is very clear to see) that has been reported countless times, regular vehicles back and forth that the police would catch in the act if there was enough of them in wait. In the 6 years I have lived here the last 18 months have been the worst and getting even worse. Why? Because they know they are getting away with whatever they please because we have no policing. Things are going from bad to worse and people are starting to take matters into their own hands. I hope and pray you get the funding that is needed.”
That is not an unusual plea for me to get from my constituents.
I know that the police officers of Cleveland police are doing a fantastic job against all the odds, and I want to pay tribute to all of them today for the sacrifice and service they give to us, but they have been struggling with nearly a decade of year on year real-terms cuts. We have lost 500 police officers and 50 police community support officers—that is nearly 40% of our staff in Cleveland police. How on earth do the Government think we can have a functioning service that protects the public when they wipe out 40% of the resources—the members of staff—that are there to protect the public? That is why crime is rising. We have seen a rise of 12% in all crime in the Cleveland police area in the last year, and a shocking 95% increase in violent crime in the last five years. Those figures are appalling and are a direct consequence of the cuts to police numbers.
I do not understand how this funding settlement can have been set out with such clear inequality and such a lack of needs-based resourcing as we are seeing today. Cleveland has the fourth highest crime rate in the country, yet today it is receiving the lowest settlement in the country—just 5.77%. That is 1.42% lower than the average increase across the rest of the service. How can it be that the area with the fourth highest crime rate gets the lowest settlement? There is something fundamentally wrong with the way the Government are calculating the funding formula.
I would have liked to have put this question to the Home Secretary, but I cannot—I am sorry he cannot spare three hours of his life to listen to the entirety of this debate and hear from constituents around the country—so I will put it to the Minister instead. What on earth is the Government’s funding formula based on, given that every single force area that received a lower than average increase, bar one, was among those with the highest levels of recorded crime per head? It is just not right or equitable. In line with all the other cuts, this appears to be politically motivated, not based on need, which is unacceptable.
I am shocked that my constituents are being asked again to pay through the nose for higher local precepts. Not only has the Home Secretary hidden the local collection figure in his national funding announcement today, but—this is the most important point—my constituents are paying twice. They are already paying for their police service through their taxes and are now being asked to pay again through the precept.