In December of last year, Greater Manchester Police was placed in special measures. Within a couple of months, a new Chief Constable – Stephen Watson – was hired and tasked by the Mayor and Greater Manchester Combined Authority to urgently develop a plan to turn the force around.
Last week, the new Chief Constable outlined a series of measures and reforms which I think are very welcome. He has promised to get tough on crime, committed to cut 999 and 111 waiting times as well as invest in improving police leadership. Perhaps most significantly, he has also pledged to give every local area a neighbourhood policing team which will be accessible and properly clamp down on anti-social behaviour.
I know that many residents across Tameside are concerned about neighbourhood policing. Instances of anti-social behaviour have skyrocketed over the course of the pandemic, and many crimes have not been investigated sufficiently or in some cases, at all. In addition to management problems within Greater Manchester Police, a decrease in national police funding and support has caused a lot of problems in communities across the Borough.
I hope that the new reforms will address these problems, and that they will be accompanied by increased Government assistance for our police force. Back in 2007, when I served under the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith in the Brown Government, the work that we had done on policing in local communities was a great source of personal pride. The Labour Government had reduced crime by 48% in a decade, invested heavily in policing and criminal justice, and police numbers were at a record high. A community-led approach to policing was one of Labour’s key achievements.
Over the last decade, I have watched in horror as a lot of that work has been undone by successive Conservative administrations. We all deserve to live in safe and secure communities, and properly supporting and funding our police is key to achieving that.
I’m glad that the new Chief Constable has recognised and accepted the failings of Greater Manchester Police, and I know that the proposed shake-up to neighbourhood policing can’t come quick enough for many parts of Tameside. I look forward to working with the new senior leadership team at Greater Manchester Police over the coming months and years, and will continue to work tirelessly alongside local councillors to tackle crime in our neighbourhoods. I only hope that the renewed urgency at Greater Manchester Police to make communities safer is matched by the Government.