#Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 2nd July 2012

With over four million criminal offences taking place in England and Wales per year, it’s hard to overstate the impact which cutting police funding by 20% will have on communities and local residents. We’re told that these cuts are necessary to get the economy moving again and confront the deficit, I have my doubts. While stopping crime costs money, failing to stop crime costs vastly more.

Crime costs the UK economy well over £100bn every year, with fraud alone costing an estimated £73 billion. So while a 20% (£1bn) cut in police funding is going to mean a huge reduction in the effectiveness of the police service, with over a thousand job losses at Sussex Police, it’s more likely to harm than to help the economy. Without economic growth, no government can hope to eliminate the deficit. Someone clearly hasn’t thought this through.

During my time as a councillor, it has been my pleasure to work with the local police, both in my ward and as a member of the council’s Police Liaison Committee. We are fortunate to have a local police service which genuinely engages with the community, confronting local problems and tackling crime. They do a hard job under difficult circumstances and they deserve better support than the Conservatives are now offering them.

This November, Sussex residents will have the opportunity to elect a Police and Crime Commissioner for the first time. While the wisdom of the Government undertaking a top-down restructure of police authorities at a time of funding cuts is questionable, this is an election which residents do need to take seriously. Police and Crime Commissioners will have control over the local police budget, in addition to appointing and holding the Chief Constable to account. In practice, they will be the last line of defence against the impact of these cuts.

This is an election which matters and the choice this November will be between candidates which maintain the Government’s position and candidates which stand up for their local area; more of the same or a local voice. On 15th November, the public gets to send the Government a message, only those who show up and vote get to say what it is.

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