Let’s make it absolutely clear, I support Cleveland Police, our magnificent Police Officers and all the workforce that do such a wonderful job keeping us and our local communities safe.
I also have every confidence in the veracity of the independent HMICFRC report that rates Cleveland Police as “Good” at meeting demand, increased efficiency, partnership working and embedding a culture that embraces continuous improvement.
Policing in Cleveland has improved immensely from where it was in 2012. It is no coincidence that was when the people of Cleveland elected a Labour Police and Crime Commissioner – who they then re-elected in 2016. Working with the outgoing Chief Constable Iain Spittal, and his predecessor Jacqui Cheer, they have been responsible and instrumental for bringing about huge operational and cultural changes in Cleveland Police. It’s a good news story.
I believe the public from Stockton to Saltburn, from Brierton to Brotton, will be taking note of that. They will also take note of local Tory representatives posturing and playing on people’s anxieties and matters now long past in calling for Cleveland Police to be scrapped.
Well, I say to Simon Clarke MP and Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen that is not going to happen. A locally managed and accountable police force, that understands and protects our local communities, is essential. If those opposing that are spoiling for a fight, then they are going to get one.
I also say to them they should turn their attentions to, as well as own up to, the other historical legacy – that of financial cuts with the consequent impact on police and staff numbers left by their Government. They both need to point the public in the right direction at where the problem lies and that is squarely at the feet of government.
Also, anyone who thinks that the people of the Cleveland area want their police force run from County Durham or North Yorkshire can think again. What, in fact, does that mean – Durham City, Northallerton, Leeds or Newcastle? In any case, it would not be any place nearby.
Let me remind Simon Clarke and Ben Houchen it’s precisely because their government have cut Police budgets to the bone that has led to fewer police officers and community support officers on the beat. That won’t change by simply switching to neighbouring areas that are facing the same squeeze on their resources and capabilities. It makes no sense at all.
Nationally, the fact is Tory cuts mean £700m less per year for policing to 2020/21. In Cleveland, our force is £40m worse off (36%) in real terms since 2010/11, with a loss of 500 officers and 50 PCSO’s. It is why police are less visible on our streets – because there are fewer of them and at a time when crime is rising. It’s a perverse logic that claims this is not the reality.
So let’s all get behind our local police force and I urge our local politicians to do the same. Cleveland Police is changing for the better, so perpetuating age-old vendettas needs to stop and we need to look to that better future.
The next Labour Government most certainly will and we have already pledged to recruit 10,000 more police officers to work on community beats as well as other far reaching reforms so that communities in Cleveland and elsewhere will get a police service that is fit for purpose and, vitally, remains locally based and accountable.