I know that many of you will have been delighted, as I was, when Boris Johnson announced that the Government intends to recruit an extra 20,000 police officers across England and Wales.
This will provide an important boost to front-line policing across the country, and illustrates how years of careful stewardship of the public finances has given the Government more scope to invest in vital services.
On top of this billion-pound recruitment drive, the Prime Minister has also announced funding to create 10,000 new prison places by 2020.
Unlike the previous target, which was aimed primarily at allowing obsolete Victorian facilities to be replaced, this will deliver a direct increase in overall capacity in the prison system. That means less overcrowding, and thus reduces the pressure to shorten sentences and let potentially dangerous criminals out early.
Ministers have also announced £100 million to install airport-style security, including metal detectors and x-ray scanners, in jails, as well as technology to detect and block mobile phones, and £85 million for the Crown Prosecution Service to help them bring offenders to justice.
All of this is hugely welcome, and will no doubt have a big impact at the national level. But this investment must be accompanied by the necessary local infrastructure.
I am therefore once again urging David Jamieson, the Police and Crime Commissioner, to reconsider his decision to close Solihull Police Station.
We have already lost its counterpart in Shirley. The West Midlands Police need a proper local base if they are to conduct the responsive, community-based policing we need here in Solihull. Having officers dispatched from Birmingham when trouble starts is not enough.
As I have said on many previous occasions, it was wrong to target community police stations in towns like ours whilst sitting on huge cash reserves. To press ahead with these plans despite a huge cash injection from the Government will only deepen local concern about leaving the fate of local services in the Commissioner’s hands.
I will continue to press this case at all levels, and am ready to work constructively to find a solution which protects local policing here in Solihull.
Originally published in the Solihull Mail, 15/08/19.