Vera Baird DBE KC

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

In response: Yvette Cooper’s speech to the Fabian Conference (28th June 2014)

Yvette Cooper once again showed us why she will be an effective Home Secretary in 45 weeks time.

Speaking at the Fabians Society Conference she delivered a speech which was compassionate, caring and reinforced why we need a Labour Government with Ed Miliband and Yvette leading from the front for a fairer country that speaks for all.

As a party we are right to oppose the bedroom tax, it hurts too many people – it is not right that people have to make the choice of whether to feed themselves or not because they can\’t afford the ever increasing heating bills and bedroom tax. It is only our party that is standing up and saying the bedroom tax is wrong.

As Yvette states, Ed Miliband has kept Labour united, focused on what we should be tackling and building a vision for Britain. Ed has ensured that MPs, Councillors, MEPs, and latterly, PCCs are working in communities in every neighbourhood delivering for local people – we are united together in doing all we can to win the General Election. We have the determination, we have the policies and we all know what is at stake if the Conservatives win another term in 2015.

During the Shadow Home Secretary’s speech she mentioned that prosecutions for domestic and sexual violence have dropped even though reported crimes are going up, 999 waits across the country are going up and fewer crimes are being solved. Here in Northumbria we have seen our budget cut by £67 million since 2010, we have had to look at every option available to protect neighbourhood policing – had the Tories had their way we would have seen frontline policing cut to the skeleton – as Labour Police & Crime Commissioner for Northumbria there was no way I was going to allow this to happen, so we are relocating police stations in to the heart of communities, looking at sharing premises with organisations such as the fire and health service to save money, this making our police bases more accessible to the public and keeping officers on the beat, we are then disposing of old properties, cutting tiers of management and have looked for savings at every level to protect neighbourhood policing. With the election of a Labour government we know that neighbourhood policing will be a priority on Yvette’s agenda.

Theresa May really does believe that policing is only fighting crime – we need to put preventing crime back on the agenda as the last Labour government did. The Home Secretary declined my invitation to stop off and see excellent policing in action when she was coming through the force area to go to the Scottish Tory Party Conference earlier this year – she has still to accept my invitation to see first class police officers trying to deliver for communities despite massive budget cuts.

I’m pleased that Yvette recognised that Labour PCCs have worked hard to collaborate with each other and with local councils and partners, this is what we were elected to do and we continue to urge Commissioners of other political persuasion to do the same.

When delivering public services, it frightens me that the market is dominated by Capita, G4S, Serco, Sodexho and Atos – I don’t have have confidence in these companies, yet the governments commissioning process is pushing them at us and as Yvette rightly states they are crowding out smaller organisations, local voluntary groups and failing to deliver value for money too.

Northumbria’s Probation service is recognised as one of the best in the country, now their future is uncertain as the government has cut up and privatised the service to the point were morale is rock bottom and the staff are working in a system with no direction from government apart from to cut costs at any measures. The services that are being dismantled are crucial to an effective rehabilitation process and getting it wrong now will have consequences for many years.

Everyone is in favour of introducing aftercare to prevent re-offending by people sentenced to one year or less. But the coalition’s Crime Minister made clear, in answer to a question from me, in May, that this will “not happen soon” but after “we have waited for the cohort to build up” whereas if it had been given to local probation trusts, the best team to deliver it, no doubt it would have been in place by now, preventing more crimes and protecting more victims. It was a showpiece reason for making these changes but the best current estimate is that it won’t even start until 2016. This is worrying

A Labour government knows that resources will be tight during the next Parliament, but public services will be more important than ever and it is Labour’s different set of values to the current government that will deliver a difference. As Yvette states “for the many, not the few; for social justice, not social fragmentation. Labour progressive values, not Tory prejudice”

Labour PCCs will both inform and support the next Labour reforms in criminal justice. We say yes to services that are personalised, giving power to individuals, families and communities; Yes to creating partnerships and collaboration. Labour PCCs believe in this rather than fragmentation and enforced competition.

Long term prevention is a Yes from us and we fully support raising professional standards.

Labour values will make a difference to our country and as Ed Miliband said nearly a year ago “Britain can do better” I’m up for the fight, I have implemented many Labour policies since my election as PCC in November 2012 – one of the proudest being a Living Wage for all who work for Northumbria police. We brought the cleaning team back in house so we could pay them a living wage.

Let’s make the next 45 weeks count and come May 2015 we will have a brighter future for our communities – with Ed Miliband as Prime Minister and Yvette Cooper as Home Secretary.