The Government have put in place policies in the areas of crime reduction, antisocial behaviour, policing and active communities that are yielding considerable benefits for the Reading, West constituency, as well as for all parts of the UK.
For example, between March 1997 and March 2004, the number of police officers in the Thames Valley police force increased by 408 from 3695 to 4103. The Government's introduction of community support officers (CSOs) in 2002 has put 18 CSOs on Thames Valley streets to tackle crime and antisocial behaviour. Between 1997 and 2003–04, Thames Valley police force area has seen a reduction in recorded domestic burglary crimes of 11 per cent. and in recorded vehicle crimes of 29 per cent.
Thames Valley police will receive £220.6 million in general grants for 2005–06, an increase of 3.75 per cent. (£7.9million) over last year. Thames Valley benefits from the decision to provide a funding floor of 3.75 per cent. If the funding formula had been strictly applied, the force would have received £4.1 million less. General grants funding to Thames Valley has increased by 28.9 per cent. between 1997–08 and 2005–06. In addition to general grants, Thames Valley will also receive around £23.8million in specific grants funding for targeted initiatives and capital provision in 2005–06. The distribution of resources locally is a matter for the police authority and the chief constable.
As crime prevention requires action across communities, every area has had a local crime and disorder reduction partnership (CDRP) since 1998 which brings together the police, health services, drugs agencies and council and community representatives to decide how to prevent and deter crime and antisocial behaviour.
The crime reduction programme (CRP) was a pioneering Government intervention programme which ran for three years from April 1999 in England and Wales and took an evidence-based approach to crime reduction. Grants of over £340 million were allocated to over 1,470 projects, including CCTV, under 20 initiatives that formed part of the programme. One CCTV project in the Reading CDRP area received a total of £749,500 from the CRP and one CCTV project in the west Berkshire CDRP area (which includes part of the Reading west constituency) received a total of £16,500 from the CRP.
Since 2001, successive initiatives have provided direct funding to each of the 376 crime and disorder reduction partnerships in England and Wales. These initiatives include communities against drugs, the safer communities initiative, the small retailers in deprived areas scheme and the building safer communities fund. Since 2001, a total of £1.56 million has been allocated to Reading CDRP and £587,626 to west Berkshire CDRP under these initiatives. A further £2.57 million has been provided over the two years 2003–04 and 2004–05 to the Home Office Regional Director in the south east for CDRP capacity building across the region.
It is estimated that out of a million active offenders, 100,000 have three or more convictions and are responsible for half of all crime. There is a prolific and other priority offenders (PPO) scheme in Reading and in west Berkshire set up to target those offenders who cause a disproportionate amount of crime, disorder and antisocial behaviour in the community.
The Government's crime reduction website provides further information on the work being done to reduce crime across the country, including information about action and results in local areas. It is available at http://www.crimereduction.gov.uk.
New legislation has given local agencies a raft of powers, from antisocial behaviour orders to local dispersal orders and crack house closure powers, to work with local people to tackle antisocial behaviour and nuisance. In Reading a total of 12 antisocial behaviour orders (ASBOs) have been issued and in west Berkshire a total of four ASBOs have been issued as of
Tackling drug misuse is a priority of this Government and its policy is set out in the 10 year national drug strategy launched in 1998 and updated in December 2002. (A copy of the updated drug strategy 2002 is held in the Library.) Under this, the Government have invested substantially in measures to reduce the harms caused by illegal drugs, focussing on the four strands of:
reducing the supply of illegal drugs; preventing young people from becoming problematic drug users; providing effective treatment to all who need it; and reducing drug-related crime.
Direct annual funding nationally to tackle drug misuse amounted to £1,244 million in 2003–04, rising to £1,344 million in 2004–05. Reading and west Berkshire has seen a significant increase in direct funding for tackling drugs, in particular for drug treatment services and the throughcare and aftercare elements of the drugs intervention programme. In 2003–04 the allocation for reading drug action team amounted to £1.71 million, rising to £2.01 million in 2004–05. For west Berkshire drug action team, the 2003–04 allocation amounted to £597,102, rising to £729,165 in 2004–05. Details of action taken to tackle drugs in the Reading, West constituency can be obtained from the Reading drug action team and west Berkshire drug action team for contact details see http://www.drugs.gov.uk/Links/DrugActionTeams.
The Government are working to ensure that citizens, communities and the voluntary sector are more fully engaged in tackling social problems, and there is more equality of opportunity and respect for people of all races and religions. Active community participation in England has increased by £1.5 million people between 2001 and 2003. Charities have been supported more effectively, and £125 million is being invested across the country through the 'futurebuilders' fund in voluntary and community organisations that help provide valuable public services. Advice on ways to engage local people in helping their communities is available on the Active Citizenship Centre website http://www.active-citizen.org.uk.
Investment is also being made in voluntary and community sector infrastructure under the ChangeUp Scheme, so that frontline groups and organisations can access the support and expertise they need to improve and expand. £100,000 has been made available to the Reading area and £100,000 has been made available to the west Berkshire area in 2005 to take forward this work.
Reading borough council also participates in the south east community cohesion learning network which is managed by the Government Office for the south east. The network is made up of representatives from 16 south east community cohesion priority areas including local authority officers, the police, and other regional organisations with an interest in community cohesion. The network facilitates the sharing of information, learning and good practice on community cohesion issues in the region.
This year, 2005, is the year of the volunteer which is being delivered by the Home Office in partnership with Community Service Volunteers and Volunteering England. This will include a whole range of events in local communities across the country that aim to celebrate the contribution which volunteers make to the quality of people's lives, and encourage more people to volunteer. We are particularly keen to encourage young people, black and minority ethnic groups, those with no qualifications and disabled people to get involved. More details can be found at www.yearofthevolunteer.org .
Detailed information on the impact of Home Office policies across the full range of responsibilities is set out in the Home Office Annual Report and in the Strategic Plan for 2004–2008, available on the Home Office website at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk.