THE police in Hartlepool do a fantastic job, often against the odds.
Any government, regardless of party politics, should have as its chief priority the security of our nation and, on our streets, the upkeep of law and order.
The police are facing some pressure at the moment. At a time of economic difficulty, it seems fairly obvious that crime might rise – when people have no job or are concerned about their future, statistics show that crime tends to increase.
In times like this, I hope every decent person in Hartlepool would agree that the police need help and support. It is at precisely this time that the police service is facing severe pressure and police officers are facing cuts to terms and conditions.
This week there was a debate in Parliament on the effect of government policies on police forces and I wanted to contribute because the matter of law and order is important to me and to the town.
I want Hartlepool to be a safe and welcoming town and this is not possible if crime and anti social behaviour are affecting decent people’s quality of life.
When I was first elected the majority of correspondence I received from constituents was about crime and anti social behaviour.
Thankfully, this is no longer the case – in the past seven years, crime has come down by half.
This means there have been 6,000 fewer people in Hartlepool who have been the victims of crime. This is a tremendous result, and thanks have to be given to the police for making this happen.
However, this is not something where you can say – “job done” and then go home. You can’t be complacent about crime. That is why you need a professional, well resourced and highly motivated workforce determined to tackle crime and anti social behaviour.
That is where I think the Government’s reforms are mistimed.
I’m sure the Government would say – in fact the Minister said it in the Parliamentary debate – that the police service should take its fair share of the cuts like every other public service.
He also said, which I’m sure will not be welcomed by the council tax payers of this town, that central government money is not the only source of police funding, and that the local government police precept – the amount on your council tax bill that is provided to Cleveland Police Authority – could be raised still further.
I don’t think anyone wishes to see a cut in the number of police on our streets.
That is what is being proposed. It makes the job of a police officer that bit harder when there is added risk of rising crime and cuts in terms and conditions on an unprecedented scale.
That is why police officers tell me that morale is lower than in living memory.
I haven’t had the volume of correspondence from police officers as I expected.
Those who have contacted me have said that they are finding it difficult to carry out their job.
That is not what the decent people of Hartlepool, and the police officers who serve the town, deserve.