Julian Knight's Westminster Diary, 12/09/19

Solihull Mail

For a long time now I have been fighting hard to save Solihull Police Station from plans by the Police and Crime Commissioner to close it down.

Under the proposals Solihull – a large and growing town which was until recently served by two proper stations – will be left without a single dedicated police base. Instead local residents will reportedly need to rely on some sort of ‘front desk’.

But whilst that might serve for reporting crime, it will obviously not have the facilities for a strong police presence in our community. Needless to say, if officers have to drive in from farther afield that increases response times and gives criminals more freedom to operate in Solihull.

Coming at a time when the Government has just announced new funding to recruit an extra 20,000 police officers nationwide, it is past time that the Police and Crime Commissioner thought again and reversed his plans.

If he won’t, then I’m pleased that Solihull voters will have a strong alternative next year.

Last week I met Jay Singh-Sohal, the Conservative candidate to be the next PCC for the West Midlands. I took the opportunity to put to him directly the many concerns that you have raised with me on the doorstep.

Unlike the incumbent he recognised immediately how important it is that Solihull retains its own police station, and I’m looking forward to campaigning with him on this issue in the months ahead.

This is about more than just policing. The fate of Solihull Police Station cuts to the heart of our local devolution settlement and whether or not it works for independent communities like ours.

One thing I have heard time and again from residents, even before I was returned to represent our town in Parliament, was deep concern about being absorbed into what Labour were calling ‘Greater Birmingham’. Silhillians recognised the value of devolution if it brought power closer to the people, but saw a risk of smaller towns getting swallowed up by big regional units.

By protecting Birmingham’s police stations at the expense of those in Solihull and other outlying towns, the current PCC is undermining the good work of Andy Street to make sure that the West Midlands Combined Authority respects towns like ours. It’s time for a change of course.

Originally published in the Solihull Mail, 12/09/19.