Oldham by-election, policing in Birmingham & my Daily Mirror interview

Ed Balls and Debbie Abrahams campaigning in Derker today

Every time the Shadow Policing Minister Vernon Coaker and I go to Oldham it snows. Last time it meant we got there over an hour and a half late!

This time, thankfully, the timetable survived. But Iain Wright MP and the rest of the campaign team – who waited as I popped in to say hello to volunteers at the campaign centre on the way – certainly felt the cold.

Debbie Abrahams, Labour’s excellent candidate for next Thursday’s by-election, and I joined the local Derker Wardens, a voluntary group of residents that supports the work of local community police and Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs). We took a look at Stoneleigh Park and the local area and discussed how policing working with the community makes all the difference. (You can watch Granada TV’s report on my visit and what’s been happening in the campaign today or read my interview with the Saddleworth News.)

Both Debbie and I, and the local residents, are deeply concerned that the Conservative-led Government is cutting over £76m from Greater Manchester Police in the next two years alone – with a cut of over 20 per cent in real terms over the next four years.

The chief constable has been put in an impossible position by the government and has been forced to announce that over Greater Manchester will see almost 1400 fewer police officers and a total of 3000 fewer staff, including PCSOs, over the next four years.

Despite the Lib Dems (and the local Tory candidate) promising more police at the election in May last year they have already broken that promise and are cutting back on Labour’s record police numbers which saw crime fall.

Some areas are facing even worse cuts than others – as much as one and a half times deeper than low crime Surrey – on their total budgets. Like Greater Manchester the West Midlands its one of the worst hit so this afternoon I went on to Birmingham where local MPs Steve McCabe, Shabana Mahmood and I met with some of the neighbourhood officers and then the Chief Constable Chris Sims and Chief Superintendent Phil Kay of south Birmingham policing unit.

We discussed the impact of the cuts, which will be deeper here than anywhere else, and how – despite over 2000 fewer staff, including some 1100 fewer police officers – they are planning to do everything they can to keep crime down and protect the community policing and police on the beat which the public value.

But the sheer speed and scale of the government’s cuts to policing are a huge challenge to our police and will, inevitably, undermine the fight against crime and anti-social behaviour in Oldham, the West Midlands and across the country. As I said in my interview with the Daily Mirror today, at a time of an ongoing terror threat and security challenges like next year’s Olympics the government is taking a very big risk.

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Posted January 7th, 2011 by Ed

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