Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting members from the National Farmers’ Union to discuss issues that are directly impacting rural communities in the constituency.
It was enlightening to learn about their day-to-day operations and the pressures they are facing, particularly when it comes to rural crime.
One issue that people in our city are well aware of is fly-tipping. This disproportionately impacts those living in the countryside and in more rural areas of the constituency, writes Peterborough MP Lisa Forbes.
It’s dangerous to wildlife and livestock as well as human health and contributes to the environmental decay of the countryside which many farmers work so hard to maintain.
Fly-tipping has blighted the city for as long as I can remember, to the extent where Peterborough was named as the third worst city for fly-tipping in the whole country. It is evident that the current strategy of tackling it, while well-intentioned, is not working.
Free bulky waste collections are an obvious solution to this problem. There are increasing difficulties surrounding legal waste disposal and the cost of it. Ensuring that the cost is negated will discourage those who fly-tip for financial reasons.
These aren’t just my words, but the words of the NFU, whose members are disproportionately impacted by this criminal activity.
Hare coursing is also blighting many farmers in our countryside. Many who confront coursers when they gain access to private farmland have faced threatening behaviour and intimidation, meaning that some are fearful of the repercussions and are less likely to get involved due to violent escalation.
It is simply not right that some of our farmers do not even feel safe on their own land.
Since 2015, there has been an increase of about 70 per cent in hare coursing incidents in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire. I would like to see more instances of the maximum penalty being permitted for those who harass, intimidate, and conduct illegal activity in our countryside. There are many legislative routes available, including crushing cars and impounding dogs.
While there are issue-specific solutions to some of these problems, the wider problem that does not help matters is the crisis facing rural policing. The latest rural crime figures from NFU Mutual show that there has been a 12 per cent increase on the previous year, which has cost the UK just under £50m.
I do not believe it is a coincidence that this is happening after years of Tory austerity. The cuts to the police over the last nine years have devastated our communities and left our countryside exposed to more crime year on year. Rural policing is most effective when officers are rooted in the communities they serve and proactively working with residents. I have no doubt they are doing their utmost, but we must provide them with the resources, officers, and investment they need to do more.
Labour’s plan for policing will protect those who protect us and make our rural communities safer after years of neglect.