Crime and police funding cuts

Every single person has the right to feel safe in their home and community, yet under this Government that is simply no longer the case for many people in Barnsley.

I’ve recently held surgery drop-ins across Barnsley East, and from Houghton to Hoyland, one of the issues raised most frequently was crime.

And I’m often contacted by constituents complaining about anti-social behaviour, particularly on off-road bikes in more rural areas, frequently in these longer summer evenings.

Amongst this crime and antisocial behaviour are some of the incredible police service personnel doing everything they can to tackle it.

And following my drop-ins,
I met with Chief Superintendent Scott Green, the South Yorkshire Police borough commander for Barnsley, to discuss the issues constituents have raised with me.

I was pleased to hear the borough commander reiterate his commitment to neighbourhood policing during our meeting, and to hear that the objective following the recent PCSO review will be to strengthen this by placing new neighbourhood policing teams in our communities here in Barnsley.

I also spoke to Chief Superintendent Green regarding the issue of biker groups, and the disruption that such groups can often bring to communities across our area.

We discussed a pilot scheme in Sheffield and Doncaster, where South Yorkshire Police have trialled a police off road bike team, who have the training, equipment and authority necessary to pursue bikes both on and off road, as well as the power to seize any bikes being used illegally.

Following the pilot scheme, this team is now becoming permanently established.

The team has already been deployed in Barnsley, and we will see them continuing to operate across our area, as well as across other parts of South Yorkshire.

This could make a real difference in our communities, and is just one example of the brilliant work our hard working police officers are doing against a backdrop of devastating cuts to funding from this Tory Government since 2010 – in the last nine years, South Yorkshire Police have lost nearly 600 officers.

That’s fewer eyes and ears on our streets, building relationships with communities and collecting information.

But on top of personnel, resources have been devastated too.

Wombwell police station is no longer open to the public, for instance.

And the nearest police station to residents in Hoyland is Goldthorpe, over 8 miles away.

Though South Yorkshire Police continue to do everything they can, communities like ours in Barnsley have been left isolated by this Government.

But as much as it is the crime that angers and upsets people, perhaps nothing is as galling as seeing Government Ministers, complicit in the devastation of community policing across the country, now speak openly about the need to increase police resources as they position themselves in the internal Tory leadership squabble.

It’s a frankly disgusting state of affairs, where the safety of residents and businesses in Barnsley have been jeopardised for nearly a decade, and is now simply relegated as a political football for Tory ministers’ use to bolster their own individual ambitions.

The impact of Tory austerity on crime and neighbourhood policing in Barnsley is clear.

As is the message from my constituents to this Government: end the damage to local police services, and make sure our hard working police are properly equipped to keep our communities safe.