As a community here in Tameside, we need to have a conversation about police cuts, now more than ever.
It’s a debate that’s been rumbling on since Tory-led austerity began in 2010, which was subsequently thrown into sharp focus in the days and weeks that followed the deadly Manchester Arena bombing.
On that day our city was attacked, but not bowed. Since then we have celebrated the courage, bravery and professionalism of our police force, and all emergency services, in the face of the unimaginable suffering they saw – now they need more than our vocal support, they need the budget to back it up.
It will not come as a surprise to many to find out that crime is rising in Tameside, Greater Manchester, and across the region more widely as criminals take advantage of brutal cuts forced on to our police force.
Since 2010, £180million has been axed from GMP’s budget, this has led to a sharp drop in the number of frontline police officers on our streets.
Facts are facts – in 2010 Greater Manchester had 8,148 officers on the streets, by the start of 2017 that figure had plunged to 6,297; that’s almost 2,000 fewer police officers patrolling our streets.
Community policing has suffered too, today there are 236 fewer Police Community Support Officers (PCSO’s) patrolling our residential areas compared to 2010.
Budgets have been slashed so dramatically that GMP cannot provide the coverage that we are used to. It is little wonder that I now receive a deluge of complaints from constituents who are fearful of increased anti-social behaviour in their community.
Their main concern focuses on the rising vandalism we’re seeing across the area with reports of vandalism in Greater Manchester rising by 37 per cent between 2013 and 2016 – the sharpest increase in the country.
On top of that, GMP has been forced to scale back counter services at local police stations across my constituency. Following the closure of counter services at Denton and Hyde Police stations my constituents in Tameside now have to travel all the way Ashton Police Station to speak to an officer – it’s just not good enough.
Community policing is crucial. The ability for members of the public to physically access a police officer within a police station is incredibly important and allows individuals a reliable and safe option to report a crime, or other matter. People need to feel able to report crime face to face, as well as building crucial relationships between the community and police – sadly however, this is becoming less of a norm.
The decision to follow a politically motivated cuts agenda has had consequences. The Home Office has produced its own figures which show that recorded crime has risen by 31% in Greater Manchester in one year with violent crime, robbery and sexual offences seeing the biggest rises.
Rather than properly fund the police, Ministers have chosen to heap the burden onto local taxpayers by raising the precept and it is communities in the most need, suffering from the largest cuts, which will get the least. There should be no winners and losers when it comes to public safety.
We need to support our police, we need more police on the streets and we need them now.