Thursday, 4 February 2010

Lib Dems' practical plan to cut crime vs Tory spin

Earlier this week the Conservative Party made the headlines for all the wrong reasons as they were roundly criticised for misrepresenting figures on violent crime for political gain.

I caught a bit of Chris Grayling, Shadow Home Secretary being interviewed on Radio 4's Today programme and I cringed. He said something about how if you talked to people on the streets they would confirm crime had risen - hardly very scientific! The point there is that what people feel about crime is based on people's perceptions not hard data: and I would agree that fear of crime is an issue.

Let's not forget the key point that Louise Casey reminded me of recently: 80% of crime goes unreported. So we need to be very careful about how we use and refer to crime data.

If you've been reading this blog and my ward blog you'll know that one of my big issues is the need to radically improve public confidence in the Police and the Council's ability to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.

I have actively campaigned for a more effective approach in Reading which involves more regular communication and a better dialogue from the authorities with the public.

Political stunts like the one launched by the Conservatives are highly damaging to public confidence (which is already low when it comes to crime) and I was pleased to see the response by the Chairman of the independent UK Statistics Authority which pointed out the folly of a politician attacking official statistics.

The British Crime Survey has been around since 1981 and although it may not be perfect I would suggest it is more credible than a certain political party when it comes to crime figures!

In stark contrast to the crude politicking of the Conservatives on crime this week (which was nothing other than damaging both to public confidence and to the Conservative Party's standing), I was really pleased to see Nick Clegg and Lib Dem Shadow Home Affairs Spokesman Chris Huhne set out the practical ways in which a Lib Dem government would make communities feel safer.

It's simple: Lib Dems would scrap ID Cards and spend the money on 3,000 more Police on the beat.

The plans called 'Safer Streets - more and better Police' include proposals to publish detection rates as well as ward level crime data.

It chimes in very much with the way we have campaigned to get crime tackled more effectively here in Reading and I think these proposals would be a very positive step towards making people feel safer and to improve public confidence in Policing.

Research published by the Lib Dems at the same time as the policy revealed:

  • Police numbers have fallen in 18 out of the 43 police forces (42%) in England and Wales since 2005. Two thirds of these police authorities are currently controlled by the Tories and one third by Labour
  • The new officers proposed under Liberal Democrat plans could be expected to make an additional 27,500 arrests and solve more than 24,500 extra crimes each year in England and Wales alone

Contrast these pledges with the actions of Conservative Mayor of London, Boris Johnson this week - who campaigned on a crime ticket then announced he would be cutting 450 Police officers in the capital!

I look forward to finding out what local people in Reading think about these proposals when I talk to them on the doorstep over the coming weeks.

As a local councillor I have heard many complaints from residents over the years that there are not enough Police in their areas - right across Town.

I'm really pleased as a parliamentary candidate that I will be able to say hand on heart that I am standing for a Party ready and able to offer genuinely practical solutions to cutting crime.

Simply scaremongering as the Conservatives have done this week will do nothing other than damage what little confidence people have in the ability of the Police and councils to tackle crime.

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