Even the most hardened libertarian admits there are some functions which the state must perform, writes leader of the Labour group on Peterborough City Council Cllr Shaz Nawaz.
Defence is one: it simply wouldn’t do to outsource our armed forces to private mercenaries; patriotism is always a better motivator to protect one’s home than money. The courts are another.
Finally, and most pertinently to our everyday lives, there is law enforcement.
As a councillor, I keep my ear to the ground; the steady thrum on the issue of law enforcement has grown into a thunderous roar. People are genuinely afraid for their safety and their property. I suggest that without law enforcement there can be no prosperity: fear of crime engenders a defensive mentality, rather than an optimistic one. Entrepreneurship requires optimism in order to thrive.
Large businesses can mitigate these risks by hiring private security; small to medium sized enterprises, i.e., the ones which generate most employment these days, cannot. Insurance costs rise. Peterborough is less attractive for investment than it should be.
The Conservatives created the role of Police and Crime Commissioner, but they also implemented deep cuts in law enforcement, so deep in fact, that the current contenders for their party leadership have vowed to reverse them. In the meantime, I’m often asked, what is the council doing? Although technically it’s not the council’s responsibility, nevertheless, there is a strong sense they should be doing more to help.
In the absence of money, the council can provide leadership. Neighbourhood Watch is there, but is it as well supported as it could be? Are neighbourhood groups given the support they need to help minimise the risks? Are we sufficiently working with the third sector in order to mitigate issues such as drug abuse, which is a driver of property crime?
There is an underlying issue of philosophy which may constrain the Conservatives: they have been so long imbued with the idea that the state that governs best does the least, that they feel that the best they can do is remain “hands off” and let the free market or “Big Society” get on with it. However, this abrogates the most fundamental duties that any government has, specifically, to protect the lives and property of individuals: without these, we have no society, and indeed, no civilisation.
In the coming months, the Labour Group will be unveiling its law and order agenda: this intends to attack the problem from several angles. First, we want to ensure neighbourhoods can help the police through Neighbourhood Watch and other programmes.
Second, we want to provide support for communities so that they are encouraged to help each other prevent crime: this includes education (e.g. how to deter burglars).
Third, we want to work with third sector organisations to help prevent crime in the first place, by helping addicts to recover, and to ensure that youth have more positive activities to engage with, rather than succumb to idleness and anti-social behaviour.
Yes, thanks to the Conservative Government, funds are limited: but that does not mean we should be anything less than vigorous, nor that we should not try.