Apparently, Surrey County Council is canvassing opinion as to whether local residents are willing to pay increased council tax in order to provide more funding for the police.
We at the Waverley Web discussed the matter over mulled wine and mince pies at this year’s Christmas Party and we thought Surrey CC might be interested in our views as we are a good cross-section of the community in terms of age and political leanings.
We were, overwhelmingly, not in favour of providing more money for the police as we came to the conclusion that the police are not under-funded, simply that those directing police operations do not manage their resources in the best and most cost-effective manner.
Recent reports in the press of police wrong-doing – three young men who narrowly escaped being wrongly convicted of rape because evidence which would have proved their innocence was withheld and the leaking of confidential information relating to Damian Green, which was deliberately made public in a blatant attempt to discredit him, the government and ruin Mr Green’s career – have all been interpreted as shocking and outrageous abuses of power by the police and have negatively influenced our views.
That said two of our correspondents regaled us with tales of their own first-hand experiences of police abuse of power. One was awarded a substantial five-figure sum in costs for a case that amounted to wrongful prosecution by a vindictive officer and another was contacted on the eve of a court case and asked to confirm evidence she had given voluntarily when reporting a crime which had been deliberately withheld from the defendant’s legal team by the police. Apparently her evidence, when the defence barrister became aware of it, led to the case being dropped.
Our Chiddingfold correspondent mentioned a friend who had received a NIP (Notice of Intended Prosecution from Surrey Police) for travelling at six miles per hour above the speed limit, clocked courtesy of a handheld speed gun. Meanwhile, less than a mile away on the same day and at a similar time, another friend’s house was ransacked by burglars. Despite the burglary being reported, the police expressed little interest in the crime and admitted they had no expectation of catching the criminal. As our Chiddingfold correspondent pointed out, had the police officer who was wielding the hand-held speed gun been on the beat, instead of toting a speed gun on a stretch of road that already hosted an active speed camera, that officer, by their very presence, might have been able to prevent or, better yet, thwart a burglary!
There is already considerable angst amongst Surrey residents that the police are only too happy to focus on soft targets, such as motorists, in order to revenue-raise instead of patrolling the streets and responding to emergencies. This latest tax-raising initiative simply compounds that view.
Of course, there are thousands of police officers who are committed to doing a good job and to keeping the public safe – PC Keith Palmer who was killed by a Jihadist whilst bravely defending the Houses of Parliament being just one example – but what the government, Surrey CC and the people in charge of directing police operations need to understand is that the public want and deserve a similar level of care and regard. They do not want to discover, over their breakfast cornflakes, courtesy of Richard Littlejohn, that Avon & Somerset Police decided to disband their burglary squad after solving only 10% of over 70,000 burglaries which resulted in the loss of £40 million worth of possessions whilst, at the same time, the same force announced a new crack down on gender based crime. Headlines such as this make people feel the government and the police are completely out of touch with the concerns of the average Surrey tax payer.
As our Cranleigh Correspondent explained, as she sipped her fourth macchiato (yeah, we’re rocket-fuelled here at the Waverley Web!): ‘I thought I was voting for a Tory government but what I’ve got is a Labour-lite government. I want the police to be tough on the type of crime that affects me, my family and friends; the things we worry about over our Dainty English in 140. Not the crimes that Guardian-reading Islingtonites are worrying about over their muesli! I want tax cuts to boost the economy, not tax increases to fund so-called public services aimed at minority interests. If the government carries on in this vein I’ll be voting UKIP at the next election!’
In the past year – 75% of crimes dealt with by police in Cranleigh resulted in no further action. Statistics from police.uk reveal the shocking fact that 313 of the 413 crimes, including violence, sexual offences, and theft in the Cranleigh/Ewhurst and Rowly areas resulted in no further action!
Our Christmas gift to David Munro is a little bit of free advice: don’t take the electorate for a soft touch. They’re only too well aware that public services are well-funded – better than ever, in many instances. It’s not the funding that’s the problem, it’s the people who dictate how those funds are directed and spent that are the problem. And there’s a very simple solution to that problem – as our Cranleigh Correspondent said: vote with your feet. Just as the good folk of Godalming did a few days ago …