Harlow Labour has responded angrily to news that Essex Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, Roger Hirst is looking to raise funds to compensate for cuts made by his own government to policing through an increase in council tax...
Mr Hirst, who announced that his priorities would include “more local, visible and accessible policing and a crackdown on anti-social behaviour” when he was elected Commissioner in 2016, has said this week that at every public meeting he hears that residents want more police on the streets but that he doesn’t have the money or resources to deliver it. He has also admitted that the demand on the police service is rising.
Chris Vince, Labour’s PCC Candidate in 2016 and candidate for Great Parndon in next May’s council elections, said today: “Roger Hirst has effectively admitted that he cannot keep the people of Essex safe because his own government is not providing him with enough money to do so.
“And rather than demand that next week’s budget includes a reversal of the cuts that have depleted our police forces and left them incapable dealing with crime, he is looking to further increase council tax. A Band D property already pays £157.05 towards policing in Essex, following a 3.25% increase last year.”
According to Home Office figures, since Theresa May became Home Secretary in 2010, the number of police officers has fallen by 21,500 in England and Wales and reports this week suggest that the 2015 central government settlement had left forces with a £350m funding gap over the next two years which will lead to a further loss of 6,000 police officers.
In Harlow, there have been reports of just one police officer on duty at a given time with responsibility for 80,000 people.
Chris Vince said; “The truth is that Roger Hirst daren’t go to his own government for funds. His boss, Amber Rudd told police chiefs and commissioners earlier this month that when crime stats go up, she doesn’t want them ‘reaching for a pen to write a press release asking for more money’. She wants them to tell their local communities and the victims what their plans are for making them safer.
“Roger Hirst’s plan is to increase their council tax.”
In Harlow, the Labour controlled Council has recently announced plans to recruit an additional three Community Safety Officers (CSOs) specifically to respond to residents’ concerns about anti-social behaviour. These have been funded from the careful and sustainable management of the Council’s finances, including ongoing revenues raised by the establishment of the Council owned HTS, taking over Housing and Landscape maintenance from Keir.
Chris Vince said; “The Council’s recruitment of three new CSOs will be welcomed by all residents, particularly those in Bush Fair and the Stow where there have been some very worrying crimes over the last year and distressing incidence of antisocial behaviour.
“However, we still need more trained police officers on our streets, particularly as by the Commissioner’s own admission, crimes are becoming more complex and we know that local policing is key to countering terrorism.
“The choice could not be starker between a Tory government which is propping up the country on the backs of public sector workers and people on low incomes and Labour which is committed to investing in all our public services and to putting an extra 10,000 police officers on the streets. This we will pay for by increasing taxes on the very wealthy, a reversal of cuts to corporation tax and a crackdown on industrial scale tax avoidance such as we have seen in the Paradise Papers.
“I call on Roger Hirst and our MP, Robert Halfon to demand that their government provides the funds to keep the residents of Essex safe in next week’s budget.”