Politically Speaking in the Wakefield Express

It was chilly on the doorsteps of Wrenthorpe on Saturday morning. Despite the cold, people were keen to talk about their rising energy bills and how the rising cost of living is affecting them. For many January is a tough month with Christmas bills to pay and worries about putting the heating on when temperatures drop. Those I spoke to on Saturday had managed over Christmas but pensioners and families told me repeatedly how stretched things are for them as bills go up and their incomes don’t keep up.

But the other issue that came up many times was how proud people are of their area and what a great place it is to live. I always ask people if there’s anything I can do to help but in Wrenthorpe on Saturday most said, “No you’re alright. We don’t get many problems round here it’s a great place to live.”

That same point was made by the local Neighbourhood Police Team too. I met local Inspector Mark Chamberlain last week to get an update on the issues they are dealing with. In the past Anti-Social Behaviour has been a big problem in some areas. A few years ago people on every street would probably have mentioned it. But as the Wrenthorpe residents on Saturday proved and as Mark said to me on Friday, the local Neighbourhood Policing Teams have ensured that any problems are usually sorted out quickly.

And it’s easy to forget that not that long ago neighbourhood policing was a new idea. “Get police back out on the streets,” we were told. And so, they were. Mark said his teams now get a really positive response from people when they’re out across the North West of the district. People know who they are and how to contact them if there’s a problem.

But despite great efforts from local teams like Mark’s and a transformation in the way policing works in our area, the police have been up against it. Locally neighbourhood policing has been protected, but we’ve still lost almost a thousand police officers in West Yorkshire with more set to be cut next year.

When the police have less, they can do less – and that means increases in response times and crimes such as rape and domestic violence getting fewer and fewer referrals for prosecution. That’s very worrying indeed.

It was right to protect our local neighbourhood policing teams. They make people feel safer. And of course money had to be saved from police budgets. But cuts could and should have been done in a fairer way with hundreds of front-line jobs better protected. Unfortunately, it’s some of the most vulnerable victims of crime who are suffering and frontline police officers whose posts have been lost.

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Posted January 17th, 2014 by Ed