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There was a time when the Conservative party claimed to be the party of law and order, yet we do not see a single Conservative MP still standing in this debate to defend this police grant. And who can blame them, given their record? We have seen £1 billion cut from the Metropolitan police over the course of a decade; and police numbers at their lowest level in three decades, with the loss of 21,000 police officers, 16,000 police staff and 6,000 PCSOs since 2010. There has never been a better time to be a criminal in this country.
Police-recorded violent crime is at the highest level on record; knife offences are at their highest levels since records began; arrests have halved in the space of a decade; and unsolved crimes stand at 2 million. That is a record that any Minister ought to be ashamed of, yet instead of reversals to central Government cuts to police funding, all we get from this Government, aside from a few scraps from the Treasury table, is the insistence that police and crime commissioners—and people such as the Mayor of London and others—should increase the burden on ordinary council tax payers. The wool has been pulled from the people’s eyes. With this debate, as with the next one, the penny has dropped with the public, and they know that they are being asked to pay more in council tax for poorer services; more in council tax to fund local council services that are being cut by central Government; and more in council tax to pay for police numbers, because central Government are cutting the numbers available.
It is no good blaming police and crime commissioners or people like the Mayor of London. In London, Sadiq Khan has put £138 million into the police from London’s resources, investing in the violent crime taskforce and the violent crime reduction unit. In my community, the London Borough of Redbridge does not have responsibility for policing, but it has invested £1.5 million in CCTV for automatic number-plate recognition and repurposed local authority enforcement officers to beef up the uniformed presence on our streets. The council knows, as do my constituents who gathered in Gearies School at the weekend and those who gathered in my office to meet the borough commander, that our community has been left less safe under the Conservatives. We have been left less safe as a direct result of central Government cuts to policing.
The Home Secretary left himself looking like a complete idiot earlier by refusing to acknowledge, plainly and on the record, what everyone else in the country knows, which is that if we cut police, crime goes up. There is a direct link between the number of police and the incidence of crime in our community.
I never want to attend another funeral like the one I attended late last year: a funeral for a young man who was murdered on the streets of my constituency. I have never attended a funeral with so many young people present. Looking around that room, I knew there was something inherently wrong in so many people having to come together to mourn the loss of a young life. It is not just police cuts that lead to violent crime and deaths on our streets, but I say plainly and honestly to the Minister, who must surely understand this, that we cannot cut crime while cutting police and we cannot prevent crime while cutting public services to the extent that this Government are. Those services include public health services, mental health services, school budgets, and education and youth services to get young people off our streets and into services that give them opportunities to expand their horizons, improve their life chances and help them to find a better way to fund their future than a life of crime.
In a week in which it became clear that three men in their 30s and 40s have been released without prison detention for running county lines that affect my community, all I say to the Minister is that we have to be tougher on criminals, we need more police on the streets and we have to provide a better future for young people in my constituency and throughout the country than the £400 a week that young people in our country are being offered by drug dealers to run drugs. Until we solve these problems, I will continue to see in my surgeries and in my community people crying out for more bobbies on the beat in Redbridge, which his exactly what I will continue to campaign for.