A couple of weeks ago I was on the Sunday Politics show talking, amongst other things, about the cuts in police budgets. And in the Hartlepool Mail last Friday I mentioned the effect a 14% reduction in traffic officer numbers was having on road safety.
Throughout the General Election campaign one of the recurring themes on the doorstep was the need to increase the numbers of police officers on our streets.
It’s true to say that wherever you go in Hartlepool, whatever the time of day or night, there is a distinct lack of bobbies on the beat. Of course it’s not the fault of individual constables and PCSOs that much of their hard work goes unseen. But the simple point is that people feel safer when they see a police presence in their areas.
It’s no accident that the Labour Party manifesto pledged to prioritise neighbourhood policing, put 10,000 more police on the beat and put an end to cuts in police budgets. We are simply listening to what the electorate have told us and we promise to deliver on their expectations.
Under Tory austerity, Cleveland Police - the second smallest force in the country - has had to make savings of £25.4m since 2011. That is a savage 22% cut in their allocated budget. As of 2016, the Cleveland force area has had the highest number of victim-based crime per capita; higher than London AND seen officer numbers reduced. I’m certain that is no coincidence.
Nationally, according to Home Office and Unison figures, the number of PCs in England fell from 141,850 in 2011 to 122,859 in 2016. No wonder we don’t see the reassuring sight of bobbies and PCSOs on our streets as often as we should do.
l Readers will recall me mentioning in this column a remarkable young student nurse called Zoe Sutton who is campaigning to bring back nurse bursaries as well as highlighting what a raw deal in general our nurses get.
A small group of local Labour activists were so touched by Zoe’s personal plight and her fight for all nurses that they decided to help out.
After recruiting the services of highly respected local film maker Maxy Bianco - who kindly gave his time for free - they’ve set about making a video to make the public more aware of the issues.
Once again it was an absolute pleasure to meet Zoe and hear her passionate and knowledgeable comments. The young student nurse made a number of brilliant points during our video chat but one particular point has stuck with me: Zoe is adamant that the public must stand up and be counted. She’s absolutely right. I know how much people value our nurses - and everyone who works in the NHS - so I have no doubt Zoe will get the public on board.
Quite right too.