Vera Baird DBE KC

Writer, Lecturer, Parliamentary Consultant and Co-Director of Astraea: Gender Justice

Challenges Facing Policing.

When the House of Commons returns, one of the first jobs MPs will have to do is to respond to George Osborne’s proposed cuts of up to 40% to government departments. If the Home Office is faced with a 40% cut to its budget, it will have devastating effects on how we police Northumbria. Be under no illusion, the decisions taken by the Chancellor will impact on how we police. Since 2010, the Tories have removed nearly £120 million from the Police budget, this has resulted in 16% fewer police officers than in 2010 and 25% less police staff.

Policing is more than just catching criminals – Theresa May seems to think because crime is falling, it is perfectly acceptable to cut police budgets. WRONG! Here in our region, on a typical day officers deal with over 200 Anti-Social Behaviour incidences and 81 cases of domestic abuse, police officers are call to respond to approximately 26 incidences involving people with mental health issues, 40 road traffic collisions, helping find over 20 missing people and dealing with over 42 stop and searches. All of these examples are more than catching criminals – they are jobs that our police staff do day in day out, sadly the Home Office don’t appreciate these important tasks and continue to focus on one part of the many duties of a police officer.

There are nearly 1.5 million residents in the Northumbria force area. I work closely with the Chief Constable, Steve Ashman, to ensure we get it right. Despite the financial difficulties, police officers and staff continue to go the extra mile to serve local communities. There efforts are recognised by residents as overall satisfaction remains high, and the force is placed first nationally for ease of contact (98.8%), follow up (88.8%) and over service is (92.2%). If we get it wrong, we now have a dedicated triage team who can help deal with any issues that are raised within a matter of a few hours. We really do keep the public at the heart of everything we do.

The priorities in the Police & Crime Plan are just as important now, as they were when you helped shaped them at the beginning of 2013. Northumbria Police have worked hard to address them. HMIC acknowledged that how Northumbria Police deal with Anti-Social Behaviour is outstanding. The force works closely with partners to tackle issues head on and ensure that all vulnerable victims receive extra support. Initiatives such as working in partnership with housing providers to tackle youth ASB has paid dividends. Anti-Social Behaviour remains high on our agenda and will continue to do so. I want all crimes to be reported, if you are experiencing Anti-Social Behaviour – REPORT IT. If the police know about it, they will tackle it.

Our work in addressing Violence Against Women and Girls continues to go from strength to strength. Domestic and sexual abuse happens mostly behind closed doors meaning that it is something of a hidden crime. Therefore it’s vitally important to raise awareness of what domestic abuse is, what help and support is available for those suffering from it, and making it easier for victims to contact someone to get help. We are delivering this with partners and will continue to do so.

Due to financial pressures on the force, I have had to look at ensuring our police bases offer excellent value for money, whilst being in convenient locations and accessible. The new police base in the White Swan Centre, Killingworth, is an excellent example of this. We have brought the police to the heart of the community and the neighbourhood teams maintain the excellent relationships they have built up with residents. I continue to look for savings right across the board, you may have seen a recent report by the Taxpayers Alliance, that my office has made the biggest cost savings (compared to the cost of the former police authority) out of all Police & Crime Commissioners – to date, in excess of £3 million has been saved, just from my office costs alone.

I can assure you that I will continue to work with all partners to ensure Northumbria receives the best deal possible. It’s a tough challenge – but I’m determined that the priorities you set in the police and crime plan are delivered and exceeded.



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