Tom Hunt makes case for fairer police funding for Suffolk before joining bobbies on the beat
Yesterday (05/03/20) at Business Questions, Tom Hunt called on the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, to set aside time for Parliament to debate the Police Funding Formula which currently leaves Suffolk Constabulary underfunded and which doesn’t reflect the crime problems Ipswich is facing.
While Hunt welcomed the 54 extra police officers for Suffolk as part of the Government’s boost to police spending, he was also clear this does not yet go far enough.
Hunt raised the tragic case of Richard Day, who was fatally attacked on St Matthew’s Street in Ipswich last month, as he underlined the need for more police on the streets in Ipswich. He called on the Government to review Police Funding Formula and address police numbers in Suffolk so that further such tragedies can be avoided in the future.
The importance of a greater police presence in key parts of the town has also been brought to fore recently after the burglaries at the Emilia Hair and Beauty Studio on Great Colman Street, and at Willys & Millys café on Northgate Street. Hunt has been clear that crime and anti-social behaviour is the number one challenge facing Ipswich and these break-ins are another reminder of this.
Given the importance of getting policing right, Hunt has joined the Parliamentary Police and Fire Service Scheme where he will spend 15 days of the year working on the front line with junior police officers. He’ll join them on nightshifts and patrols, and see how they train and investigate crime. He will also have the opportunity to work with armed police, dog and helicopter units as well as traffic officers.
Over the course of the scheme, Hunt hopes to gain a comprehensive understanding of the challenges police officers face every day. He will bring back what he has learned in Parliament to hone his case for getting on tough on crime and seeing more police resources in Ipswich.
Following his intervention in Parliament, Tom said:
“I won’t stop making the case for more money to be spent on the police in Suffolk. The brutal attack on St Matthew’s Street and the break-ins we have seen in the town centre recently highlight again why a greater police presence is needed in Ipswich.
“That’s why I pressed the Government to move ahead with a review of the Police Funding Formula which determines how much money each police force receives. In its current form, the Formula doesn’t reflect the challenges we are facing in Ipswich.
“Officers in Suffolk deal on average with more crime investigations and incidents compared to the average officer from a metropolitan area. And this is despite the fact we have the 3rd lowest police staffing numbers per 1,000 residents when compared to all other forces in the country.
“The Police Funding Formula must be reviewed to take this into account. It’s an essential step if we are to make Ipswich safer and prevent further serious crimes like the attack on St Matthew’s Street.
“To get further to the heart of this issue, I’ll be joining the police on the front line for 15 days over the year as part of the Parliamentary Police and Fire Service Scheme. I’ll be working closely with junior officers to see the challenges they face every day and how we can better support them in their role keeping us safe. I plan to bring what I learn back to Parliament as I continue to make the case for greater police funding and a zero-tolerance approach to crime.”
Tom Hunt raises Ipswich’s Bridge Ward in Parliament as he calls for more support for left behind communities
Yesterday (04/03/20) Hunt met with representatives of the Local Trust to discuss Bridge Ward in his constituency. The meeting followed new research from the Local Trust which found that Bridge is one of the 206 most left behind wards in the country.
To indetify ‘left behind’ areas, the Local Trust looked not only at economic indicators but social factors as well. These include connectivity, how active the local community is and the number of places where the community can meet and socialise.
Following the meeting, Hunt set out in the House of Commons what this means in terms of people’s health in Bridge. In Bridge, healthy life expectancy at birth is around 5 years lower than the national average and deaths from cancer are over 25% higher than the national average. Long-term illnesses for those aged over 65 are also 10% above the national average.
To address this, Hunt called on the Government to create a £2 billion Community Wealth Fund to be targeted specifically at areas like Bridge. The Fund would redirect existing money, currently sitting dormant in assets like bonds and shares, to the most deprived communities over a 10 to 15-year period. The money would be targeted locally, with local residents taking the lead on how the money is spent.
Hunt has resolved to work with Local Trust and other MPs to move these plans forward. And he has pledged to support to a new All Party Parliamentary Group on left behind neighbourhoods which will develop detailed proposals to take to Government.
Following his intervention, Tom said:
“I have spent a great deal of time in Bridge and I’ve shared many positive conversations with residents there, but there is a sense that the area is not fulfilling its full potential. New research from the Local Trust has also highlighted that Bridge has been left behind.
“A lot has now been said about levelling up the country but now it’s to time get on and do it. That’s why I’ve called on the Government to create a Community Wealth Fund which will target investment specifically in areas like Bridge. Crucially as part of the plans, residents would be at the heart of the decision making process when it comes to how the extra money is spent.
“It’s vital that we focus our energies on places which haven’t had enough support in the past and empower local residents to have a voice on the future of their communities. I’ll be working hand-in-hand with the Local Trust and other Members of Parliament over the coming months to see this happen.”
Yesterday, Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich, intervened in the House of Commons debate on the Police Grant Report to demand fairer funding for Suffolk Constabulary.
The Police Grant Report is how Parliament approves the central police funding allocation for each force every financial year. This year the Government is pumping an additional £1.1 billion into policing nationwide with Suffolk receiving up to £9.2 million extra.
While this additional funding is welcome, only £152 is spent per head of population on policing in Suffolk, compared to a national average of £192 per head. And if Suffolk received the national average funding, Suffolk Constabulary’s budget would be increased by nearly £30 million.
Hunt intervened in the speech of fellow Suffolk MP, Peter Aldous, to make clear to the Government that Suffolk should not be perceived as a sleepy county which doesn’t have real issues when it comes to crime. He said that this should be addressed as part of a review to the police funding formula. At present, the police funding formula is opaque, complicated and disproportionately hits rural forces. This includes rural forces which have to police large towns like Ipswich. Ipswich faces many of the same serious crimes more commonly associated with urban areas.
The importance of this debate was underlined for Hunt as he brought to the House’s attention the attack on St Matthew’s street in Ipswich on Saturday night. This is the type of serious crime which Suffolk needs resources to help prevent and solve.
In a further intervention, Hunt was also clear that extra funding was only half the solution to safer streets. The police must also have the right priorities when tackling crime. Hunt said: “the police should spend far less time hounding members of the public for what they may or may not think on societal issues, such as in the case of Harry Miller and Humberside police, and far more time taking the side of the law-abiding majority and cracking down on the activities of Extinction Rebellion activists that we saw in Cambridge last week”.
Hunt was referring to the case of Harry Miller who had police turn up at his place of work to “check his thinking” for his tweets online about transgenderism. He was told his tweets would be recorded as a “non-crime hate incident” even though he had not committed a crime. The police’s initiative in this case stands in stark contrast to the police’s inaction on Extinction Rebellion activists who have been able to shut down cities with near impunity.
Following his interventions yesterday Tom said:
“It is with immense sadness that we have now learned that the man fighting for his life after being attacked on St Matthew’s Street has now died. I raised this incident in Parliament as it really underlines the importance of getting better funding for our police and getting more police out on the streets.
“I welcome this Government’s commitment to increasing police funding, including the £700 million for 6,000 new police officers. Yet this is also an example of how Suffolk goes under-resourced.
“My understanding is that Suffolk will only get 54 of the 6,000 extra officers despite the fact that Suffolk has the third lowest staffing numbers relative to population when compared to all other forces. The importance of fair funding is why I intervened in Parliament, alongside other Suffolk MPs, to put the case to the Government that our County’s police need more resources.
“Ultimately, the police funding formula needs to be reviewed as it disadvantages rural forces. This includes rural forces which cover large towns like Ipswich and which deal with serious crimes more commonly associated with urban areas, like the St Matthew’s Street attack on Saturday night.
“I was also clear in Parliament that additional funding is only one part of making our streets safer. We must allow the police to prioritise protecting law-abiding people and solving real crimes. The resources we give them should not be spent reporting people for non-crime hate incidents because they happen to hold different views on societal issues.
“We have already seen fringe elements in our politics use the police to try to besmirch those that just happen to disagree with them. This must be avoided at all costs if we are truly to win public support in our efforts on law and order.”
Yesterday I had the pleasure to be the guest on the BBC Radio Suffolk Lesley Dolphin show. During my interview I discussed a range of topics including my first week in Parliament, opportunities for people with special educational needs, closures to the Orwell Bridge and long term fixes to our rail network. You can listen to the full interview below.