THE BLOG

Terrorism, Community Safety, Police Cuts And Tower Hamlets

23/06/2017 15:03

Terrorism sows fear across all communities. Here in Tower Hamlets in East London, where we have the biggest Muslim population of any London borough, people of all faiths and also of none are equally afraid of the possibility of future attacks. But also, we are determined that we will all go about our business as usual and not be cowed by a handful of fanatics who have the temerity to claim Islam as their religion. We have a history of good community relations here in our borough and I have personally worked with the police over many years as we continue to make Tower Hamlets a safer, better place to live.

When London was burning in youth riots in 2011, Tower Hamlets remained calm and trouble free because of our careful planning, investment in services, locally visible leadership and excellent community and police relations ensuring our young people understood the right from wrong.

There's no magic money tree or a quick fix but it's about priorities and leadership, when I was the Cabinet Member responsible for community safety, partnerships and policing in Tower Hamlets, we demonstrated how it was possible to achieve results despite terrible austerity cuts because we put our residents and their safety first.

In 2013, Tower Hamlets Council was committed to tackling crime, with local partnership working, when we undertook the Operation Carbon - largest operation of its kind by Metropolitan Police and Tower Hamlets Council targeting burglary, robbery, theft and drugs crimes across the East London which could lead to more dangerous crimes and be used to fund extreme activities and crimes - with the police making a real difference for local people.

In 2014, an independent survey showed that 81% of local respondents in London Borough of Tower Hamlets believe the 'local area is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together' - the highest figure since the survey began in 1998. We also received a special London Councils award for our challenging but rewarding work that focused on three difficult topics - preventing violent extremism, homophobic hate crime and the arrival of new communities into the area, with mutually respectable integration.

This was not an accident, all this was achieved because we made our mission to work together with our local police at the local authority level by investing jointly and by creating an environment that enhanced the ability of our local community orientated police to keep our residents safe, gather proactive intelligence about crime and other illegal activities together with a message of reassurance through joined up working with our local community and stakeholders. Our visible and innovative initiatives such as regular public safety walkabouts, backed up by an excellent CCTV network to catch criminals and mobile police surgeries were the key drivers for our success underpinned by relentless focus by the local community, political and police leadership. 2017-06-23-1498213732-6115977-OAonInauguralCommunitySafetyPoliceWalkabout.png

The decision taken by the directly elected Mayor John Biggs locally in Tower Hamlets to cut 34 local partnership police officers funded by the Council is not only absurd but counter-productive and must be reversed. This goes against all of the advice and the warnings we are rightly hearing from the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan and the Police Federation. Community police are at the front-line. They work with local people, building up trust and confidence. These cuts are being made at a time of increased threat by a lone wolf or copy-cat attackers and where having local intelligence is absolutely vital.

But we also now know that nationally there has been a 20% cut in the police budget, with 20,000 fewer police officers since 2010. £2.3 billion has been taken away from the police budget in last 5 years alone. The Government's latest Police funding formula is insufficient and misguided - as it will only move money between rural and urban police forces - which completely misses the point. This, along with 600 fewer firefighters, with 10 less fire stations in London alone, makes a truly depressing state of affairs.

In addition, many thousands of support staff were removed, with 1000 fewer specialist firearms police officers compared to 2010.

Specialist Firearms Officers are being forced to work longer shifts and working on their day off which raises a question whether it is effective or a sensible way to handle the safety of the public as well as the welfare of police officers who have to make life and death decisions.

Our excellent police and emergency services are rightly praised for their bravery and professionalism in crises and emergencies but what they also deserve a dignity of fully funded service without a systematic assault on their living standards, budgets and wellbeing.

The Prime Minister still hasn't woken up to the fact that the cuts in police numbers she presided over while Home Secretary were ultimately her responsibility and that all of these cuts filter back down to street level. Some cuts have been resisted in some places better than others, although unfortunately not in our borough. Instead she has tried to deflect blame by claiming that not enough is being done in our communities to tackle extremism, despite not having any evidence for her claims.

I challenge the Prime Minister to come to Tower Hamlets and I will happily introduce her to our communities and let her come to appreciate the excellent relations we have with the police.

For the safety of all our citizens, we must see these cuts reversed nationally and locally. The public rightly need to be kept safe on our streets, and this is surely the most basic of duties that all of us expect from national and local government leaders alike.

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