Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Emma Hardy for speaking about her experience, and others across this House who have been out with their police and have seen what they are having to go through. I also pay tribute to my local officers. I have done shifts at both Buxton and Glossop police stations and seen the amazing work that the police do.
When I turned up in the morning at Buxton, the officers there had spent the previous night clearing up after a horrific road accident in which three young men lost their lives. It was an absolute tragedy that no one would want to see. Those officers were deeply affected, but they turned up the next morning, did their shift, and helped to deal with the families and with the repercussions of that incident. I absolutely pay tribute to them. Our officers do this because they know that there is no one else. The police are incredibly short-staffed in our rural area, covering almost 900 sq km from two police offices.
We in Derbyshire have had a 26% reduction in our funding, which means £38 million less for our police. Our police and crime commissioners have tried to protect the frontline, so the reduction has translated into 18% fewer officers, but that is still 337 in number. Police stations have been closed in Chapel-en-le-Frith and in New Mills, leaving huge areas that are covered from a distance and where the police response, even to an emergency, cannot but take a significant amount of time.
This police funding settlement represents £8 million less from the Government than just the costs of pensioning off so many of the 21,000 fewer officers that there now are. In Derbyshire, the police will receive £400,000 less from the Government than they will have in pension fund costs. That means that our hard-pressed council tax payers are having to pay for the cost of police pension fund, which has increased due to getting rid of police. How is that fair or equitable? We have already had council tax rises of 5% last year and 4% this year, plus the police precepts, and more and more people are struggling to pay their council tax. In High Peak alone, 2,700 households have been referred to court in the past 18 months—that is 7% of all households. Increasing council tax is not an easy option. It affects the people who are poorest, who have to pay more as a proportion of their budget and who are also often those most affected by crime.
These people know that our police are suffering too. The police in High Peak are now having to look at closing the custody cells in Buxton. That means that to take arrested people to a custody cell, our police would have to take them an hour’s drive over bleak moorland to Chesterfield or over the county border into Manchester, leaving our thin blue line even thinner than before. There has been a 43% rise in violent crime in Derbyshire, and there have been some absolutely terrible incidents in High Peak. Our officers have to deal with these incidents day in and day out, often working on their own, turning up to the most horrific scenes single-handed and having to wait until they can get cover from other staff who can join them, which can take far too long.
I absolutely pay tribute to our officers across Derbyshire and to the police staff who do the very best they can to deal with the rising levels of violent crime, murders and suicides. There are mental health incidents that take them hours to deal with, when they take people into hospital and have to wait for mental health services to assist. They go above and beyond the call of duty, day in and day out. No wonder it is more difficult to recruit to our police.
The Government should stop taking our police for granted. They should start by funding them properly and helping them to deal with crime. That is what people across the country want, and it is what I hope the Minister will respond with today.