Debate: Have the police abandoned Peterborough’s residents?

Sir Graham Bright, Cambs Police Crime Commissioner  with Mark Hopkins, Assistant Chief Constable and Steve Welby head of the Victims Hub at the launch at Thorpe Wood. EMN-140927-173248009
Sir Graham Bright, Cambs Police Crime Commissioner with Mark Hopkins, Assistant Chief Constable and Steve Welby head of the Victims Hub at the launch at Thorpe Wood. EMN-140927-173248009
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Stewart Jackson is not one to mince his words, but even so his Peterborough Telegraph column last week turned heads.

The Peterborough MP criticised the city’s former police chief, Superintendent Tony Ixer, before claiming residents felt they had been abandoned and wanted to move away. He also said Cambridgeshire Constabulary had reserves of £25 million, a claim which the force have countered.

The Peterborough Telegraph contacted people to get their views on Mr Jackson’s column.

Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Sir Graham Bright said reducing budgets means the police would have to prioritise how it used its resources.

He added: “I would like to reassure residents that no community need ever fear lawlessness or abandonment. The police will continue to monitor the risks and threats facing our communities and respond to local needs.

“I’m not denying that our resources are stretched, but the public needs to know that no crime will be ignored in Peterborough.

“I’m committed to ensuring our residents have a police force they can trust and have confidence in and this means addressing everything that undermines their quality of life and creating a safer Cambridgeshire.”

John Bridge, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce chief executive, felt Mr Jackson had been too emotive but understood his sentiment.

He said: “Businesses understand the real challenges police have. They can only do things relative to the budget that has been given to them.

“I would like them to be totally open and honest so people can fully understand about the situation that they are in, what their priorities are and what they will and will not do.

“We have not seen the police and crime commissioner in any way, shape or form talking about what the priorities are so the business community can have their say.”

When businesses are burgled Mr Bridge said: “What you get is the number that you need to make an insurance claim. It deals with the practical side but not the emotional side. That’s the real concern.”

Ed Murphy, a Peterborough City Councillor and former candidate to be police and crime commissioner, last week praised the police response after he was beaten up while out walking.

He said: “The police service in Cambridgeshire have had to bear unprecedented cuts in funding and we cannot maintain an effective service of policing with too few coppers.

“Our MPs should help with solutions not just keep whining about the quality of life and level of crime in Peterborough. Our neighbourhood teams introduced by Labour have near enough become extinct and this is a tragedy for intelligence-led community policing.Targeting bikes is not really the priority when there are astonishing increases in violent crime.”

Brian Gascoyne, chairman of the Millfield and New England Regeneration Partnership, said: “I support a lot of what Stewart says but we need go deeper into the root cause of the problems.

“At the end of the day police resources are stretched. I heard of an assault and nothing was done about it. If they are not going to reply to these sort of things where are we?

“The government has got to put the money in. At the moment police are a soft option for politicians in Whitehall.

“Most people who live in Millfield and New England probably agree with Stewart.”

Simon Dow from Yaxley was burgled earlier this year. He said: “The police did all they could. I was happy with what they did for me even though it did not get the result.

“They phoned me a few times and kept me updated.”

Alan Paul, chairman of the Peterborough Neighbourhood Watch Association, wrote to the PT saying Mr Jackson was “out of touch with reality.”

He added: “Come on Mr Jackson sign up your constituants to the Watch Network and work with the police not against them.”

Cambridgeshire police respond to MP’s column

Temporary Deputy Chief Constable Mark Hopkins, responded to Stewart Jackson’s column:

“I would like to clarify the reason for Superintendent Tony Ixer’s move to a role at Headquarters – he has taken a temporary promotion, to Detective Chief Superintendent, following the recent retirement of the Chief Constable. The move did not have anything to do with Mr Jackson’s relationship with Det Ch Supt Ixer, or his ability to carry out his role. I also refute the comments made by Mr Jackson in his column – we take our responsibility for policing Peterborough and the rest of the county very seriously.

We work very closely with our partners, especially around those matters with some of the most vulnerable victims, such as child sexual exploitation, domestic abuse, so called honour based violence, mental health issues, missing from homes and the modern day slavery agenda - which are all very sensitive in the Peterborough community.

These are the vulnerable people Mr Jackson refers to in his column. The same people identified as being vulnerable by Home Secretary Theresa May.

In his article, Mr Jackson refers to the fact we have a reserve of £25m in the bank. This is in actual fact an accounting reserve and that money is already allocated. At least £8m of that will go towards balancing the budget going forward over the next three years, and the rest is what it says it is – a reserve.

This is money that will be used for insurance claims and one off capital investments for example, as well as to cater for unexpected acute demands we have to deal with but cannot plan for, such as EDL demonstrations or large-scale murder investigations.

To say we have £25m sat in the bank that we could be using to deal with the issues Mr Jackson raises is factually incorrect.

Our current budget stands at £129m. In the past five years, we have taken out £23.3m, which includes £4.6m in this financial year (2015/16). We have been asked by the Treasury to prepare indicative budgets of further 25-40% reductions over the next five years. A 40% reduction for Cambridgeshire could mean potentially 300 fewer constables for the force. That is the worst-case scenario and one I genuinely hope will be avoided.

We are working closely with the Police and Crime Commissioner to plan for the budget reductions we need to implement over the coming years.

Let me reassure the people of Peterborough, and indeed Cambridgeshire: despite budget cuts, a changing demographic and a change in the profile of the crimes we are dealing with, meaning more complex investigations, we do have the resources to protect people, but the way we do business has to change and is changing.

We have and continue to work hard to collaborate with Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire to enable us to deliver efficient and effective policing to the people of Cambridgeshire. A number of our protective services are already collaborated, such as roads policing, the dog unit and the armed policing unit and we are in the early stages of collaboration between our contact management centres and human resources departments, for example.

We have made great strides in our use of technology to help us deliver more visible, community policing across Cambridgeshire and this will continue. We simply cannot continue doing what we have always done.

We will continue to work with Mr Jackson, and all our MPs, to support the local community in the best way we can and we remain committed to working very closely with our partners in Peterborough City Council and in other agencies. We are all facing budget cuts and making very hard decisions around what and how we prioritise, and it is the commitment and leadership from all parties that is enabling us to do this in the most effective way.

We have spent the past five years trying to do more with less, however, moving forward and with further projected budget cuts, we have no choice but to do less with more focus.”