NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Saturday 21st October 2017
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What is going on with crime levels locally – and nationally? The latest statistics make for some troubling reading. In the 12 months to September 2017, Nottinghamshire Police recorded a 30.4% increase in All Crime, which equates to 21,736 more crimes than in the previous 12 months. The steepest increase in crimes in the city seem to be public order offences, violence without injury, and sexual offences.
Nottinghamshire Police say that this is “a direct result of higher compliance rates” with the new national crime recording standards – and it’s true that all other police forces have seen a similar leap in recorded crimes to reflect this change in methodology. There has been a 13% rise in crimes logged across the rest of the country, but our rises appear to be higher in Nottingham. Perhaps this is because we’ve had £54million taken out of Notts Police in the past five years and we have one of the lowest ratios of police officers per head of population of any police authority.
I’m glad that Paddy Tipping our elected Police Commissioner is trying his best to reform things and managing to recruit an extra 200 police officers this year and planning an extra 150 next year. This is better than most other authorities are planning.
First, we should be led by the evidence of what is actually going on here and not make too many assumptions. Donald Trump’s nonsense tweet yesterday blaming the UK’s crime rise on ‘radical Islamic terror’ is the epitome of ‘fake news’ – and he is clearly trying to distort the situation for the purposes of his own agenda. Second, I will work with other local MPs and the Police Commissioner to hold the police authority to account for its performance and fight for a fairer financial settlement so we can get the policing we need in the city.
If you’ve any observations about the state of policing and crime please do let me know and I will make representations to those taking the decisions on all this.
- Are we getting our fair share of public investment and spending in our part of the country? I was disappointed to see the findings of a recent study from East Midlands Councils (but not especially surprised) which shows how much less we get when compared to London – but also when compared to other parts of the country too. We’ve obviously got to make more noise about this because the Treasury and other Government departments clearly think they can get away with shrinking our share of the ‘cake’, and I’ll be doing what I can to correct this imbalance. Compared to other regions and nations of the UK, the East Midlands has the:
- 3rd lowest public expenditure on services in real terms between 2011-12 and 2015-16.
- Lowest level of expenditure on economic affairs (economic development type spending).
- Lowest % increase in spending on economic affairs between 2011-12 and 2015-16.
- Lowest levels of transport spending 2015-16, and lowest % increase between 2011-12 and 2015-16.
- Lowest levels of expenditure on rail per head of the population.
- The Boundary Commission for England this week published its revised proposals for new Parliamentary constituency boundaries, which aims to reduce the overall number of MPs from 650 to 600. I was disappointed to see that despite alternate submissions, the proposals for Nottingham East remain the same – Arboretum, Dales, Mapperley and St Ann’s wards will join with parts of the current Gedling constituency to form Nottingham East and Carlton constituency, and Berridge and Sherwood wards will go into an altered Nottingham North constituency. These latest proposals are once again open to public consultation, and any interested parties can submit their views up until 11th If you would like to take part in the consultation, you can do so online here.
- Last night I spoke at an event organised by the Nottingham branch of Labour Movement for Europe in conjunction with University of Nottingham Labour Students about Labour and Brexit. I was asked some great questions by the students present, and it was good to hear that they were so engaged in the Brexit negotiation process. There were also some really useful discussions about the prospects of giving the public a ‘final say’ on any deal and also around what the priorities should be for young people in the wake of Brexit.
- Nottingham City Council is due to authorise spending £8.4million of its own funds to install sprinklers in all high-rise properties run by Nottingham City Homes in the city. The Council had originally requested the funding from the Government, after they said they would support local authorities to pay for additional safety measures in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, but the Government refused the request, calling the measures ‘additional’ rather than essential. Despite the Government backtracking on their promise, NCH feel that installing sprinklers in high-rise blocks will help residents to feel safe in their homes, which is why they still plan to go ahead with the installation.
- Three city council by-elections took place this week in Nottingham North constituency and congratulations to new Labour councillors Nick Raine, Georgia Power and Cheryl Barnard who were elected to represent Basford, Bestwood and Bulwell Forest. Full results on the city council website at the link here.
NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- It’s clearer than ever that the Government’s strategy on Brexit is falling apart. On Monday the Prime Minister travelled to Brussels to meet with the European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker. The statement which followed their meeting called for “efforts to accelerate” – but given that successive rounds of negotiation have so far just prolonged the stalemate, this doesn’t strike me as setting the bar all that high! And back in Parliament, we learned that the Government had yet again delayed debate on its EU (Withdrawal) Bill, reflecting their inability to unite even Tory MPs behind this deeply flawed approach. In a week which brought yet more evidence that leaving without a deal could have calamitous economic consequences – costing the average household an additional £260 per year (and hitting the poorest disproportionately hard) as well as reducing investment, pushing down the value of the pound and harming the UK’s credit rating – we should all be redoubling our efforts to push for a good deal. And I think we deserve much better than we’re getting from Conservative Ministers.
- In this vein, I do think all of us Members of Parliament now have a duty to sort out this situation and not rely on the usual party political tramlines. There is actually a clear parliamentary majority for a common sense, pro-Single Market approach which saves jobs and averts legal chaos – the only question is whether pro-European MPs on all sides can set aside rigid party-political hangups and make that majority’s voice heard. Now, more than at any other moment in recent history, should be the time for MPs to come together in the national interest – as I wrote in the New Statesman this week.
- On Monday, the House of Commons debated the Nuclear Safeguards Bill, which aims to create a legal framework within which the UK can meet its international obligations on nuclear material if and when we leave the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). Whatever the limited merits of the Bill, it’s worth bearing in mind that the only reason MPs are debating it at all is that the Prime Minister recklessly chose to include our Euratom membership in her ‘Article 50’ letter on Britain leaving the EU. She didn’t have to – and whatever else happens, I very much hope that the Government will preserve in full British participation in Euratom and other vital European agencies.
- On Tuesday, MPs considered a backbench motion condemning the brutal treatment of the Rohingya Muslim community by the Myanmar military. Over a million Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh already, and we’ve heard heartbreaking reports of systematic human rights violations. The House unanimously passed the motion, which agreed with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that this amounts to ethnic cleansing. In the medium term, it will be vital for the Myanmar Government to allow unhindered access to Rakhine state for humanitarian and fact-finding purposes. And for our part, Britain’s legacy around the world does give us a particular duty to hasten a solution however we can; while I’m pleased that the Department for International Development has committed to doubling all donations to the Disasters Emergency Committee up to £3 million, such a lasting solution remains a long way off.
- On Wednesday, a Labour motion calling on the Government to pause the roll-out of Universal Credit was unanimously approved by the House of Commons. While I’m not opposed to the original streamlining aims of Universal Credit, which was introduced in 2012, an unending series of implementation flaws have pushed people into debt, rent arrears and even homelessness; it is wholly unacceptable that one in four UC claimants do not even receive support within the supposed six-week deadline. The Child Poverty Action Group has found that the introduction of UC will push over a million children into poverty by 2020. It should be clear that action is urgently required, especially on the back of changes under this Government and the coalition which have already resulted in a net reduction in support for people with disabilities and serious health conditions. It is essential that we work together to avert the entirely predictable disaster that will unfold if UC is rolled out before its faults have been resolved.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
I’m really pleased to hear that Nottingham City Council working with NET tram and NCT have been awarded £2.4m from the Department for Transport to become the first city outside London where we will be able to pay for bus and tram journeys using the contactless bank card, with a daily cap on fares.
As an MP I travel around London quite a bit on public transport so I know that this change will make life very much more convenient in Nottingham than having to buy or carry separate tickets. I gather that they are also planning to be able to link Robin Hood Cards directly to your bank account, so no more topping up will be required – just a swipe and go!
There have been changes in ticketing and connection between services over the years but I’d like to hear your views on how this has affected your journeys locally. We have quite a good reputation in Nottingham for innovating on public transport but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on further changes and improvements that we could be making.