Wyre Forest Labour condemns whoever was responsible for the utter depravity of the killing of so many deer in Bewdley, which The Shuttle has labelled the “Bewdley Animal Massacre”. Unfortunately, it is an indicator of some other serious crime issues in the District.

Stephen Brown, Labour Press Officer said “As appalling as this animal massacre is, sadly, every week in The Shuttle, we see details of drug crime, violent assaults and robbery, burglary, car thefts, thefts from outbuildings, and other criminal activity both minor and major, and very occasionally a murder in our District. The more untold story is of dramatically rising (up 22%) domestic abuse cases. Despite this, many of us feel privileged to live in Wyre Forest and believe it to be a low crime area. There is no doubt in my mind that the Police are pushed to the limit and whilst crime has not been visited, thankfully, on everyone, there is a big problem in Wyre Forest. That the Police manage to keep a lid on this is a huge credit to them and down to the magnificent job they do at every level with ever dwindling resources. That’s with no thanks to the Tories and their unnecessary ideological cuts.”

In his weekly Shuttle column this week, our Tory MP, Mark Garnier, made reference himself to this animal massacre yet had the audacity to declare West Mercia has seen frontline policing protected. He should not be able to get away with this whopper of a porky just to mask the cuts he and his Government have inflicted on our Police and so putting our communities at greater risk of crime. Across the country, violent crime is up by 22%, and firearms offences are up by 11%. This is no coincidence when we have just had this appalling animal massacre in Wyre Forest to example these facts. The blame for this rise in such crime lies fairly and squarely at the Tory Governments’ door, all supported by our hapless Tory MP, with their cavalier approach to Police resourcing and austerity in general.

Let’s be clear here and deal in facts. Russ Yeomans (chair West Mercia Police Federation) has said Officers are “run ragged” and “falling ill” due to the stress caused by “unprecedented cuts” which has seen sick leave for Officers double to 7,000 days for these issues. At the same time, since 2010, West Mercia has 200 fewer Police Officers across the region yet sick leave levels are up, not just for stress, but for physical injuries too, by 1,000. Assaults on Officers stand at a staggering 600 in the last year alone. This tells its own story, not just about the dangers of being a Police Officer, and the human impact of cuts on our Officers, but how society and criminals view them as fair game. It’s totally shocking and unacceptable and demonstrates something altogether more sinister is going on. What is driving this rise in crime and attacks on the Police? Certainly, in times of economic uncertainty there is a correlation with a rise in social problems. It beggars belief therefore that our MP can claim frontline policing has been protected when the evidence says otherwise.

Stephen Brown added “Garnier is trying to cover up the impact of his Government’s cuts, and protect his friend the Police & Crime Commissioner, John Campion, who in my view has been a walking disaster in any job he’s done. Garnier is doing this by constructing utter lies about the Tories protecting frontline Policing, and by trying to claim technology is taking up the slack. We are aware in the Labour Party that at times there are only a handful of Police on duty, but smart Police management by increasing numbers at busy times helps give the public the impression all is well, when it isn’t. It’s only a matter of time too, due to Tory cuts, that many low priority crimes will go unanswered by the Police, that is where we are heading, things are that serious. I’m sure many residents have already given up reporting minor crime because the response they know they will get won’t deal with it. Of course, the Police excel at special operations, like clamping down on the drug problems here, and which seem to have been imported from neighbouring areas as criminal gangs see the District as a soft touch. This rising drugs issue is probably in part due to a lack of permanency of visible Policing presence. Nevertheless, there is no doubt the Police are overstretched. And I don’t blame the Police for trying to reassure the public, it’s their job, and they have to deal with the hand they’re given. However, I will call this PR spin out for what it is. The truth is the Police need more resources and this is what the Police Federation has called for. It’s what the Labour Party has called for too. We are 100% behind our Police and we demand more resources. Garnier and his chums can lie their hearts out about this, but the public see it for what it is. He’s taking us for fools.”

But what of the impression that Wyre Forest is a low crime area? This itself may be something of a misconception. The Police’s own national data reveals that North Worcestershire, and which we fall under as part of West Mercia, has a crime rate above the national average. Indeed, in terms of like for like comparators, only Ashford appears worse. Wyre Forest has a particular problem with violent crime rates versus the national average, and the crime deprivation rate (eg crime is higher than expected with a high crime index) is higher than anywhere else in Worcestershire. Why is this important data? Well, it reveals that we have some other serious issues requiring better resources. None of this is a mere coincidence, our crime rate reflects some serious underlying economic and social issues that are not being adequately addressed. We are in the bottom 20% of UK incomes, have some very economically deprived wards, have some preventable acute health issues, have a desperate housing shortage with unaffordable rents, and all the while the Tory Govt cuts policy is making things worse as support services are lost. Mental Health issues are being ignored mostly as services get cut and despite Government promises. Our own Kidderminster Hospital lost Harvington Ward which dealt with mental health patients only last year, and we are yet to hear from our MP on that. Cuts have a consequence affecting economic, social, and health outcomes, so making crime more likely too.

Labour’s Stephen Brown concluded by saying “In our 2017 General Election Manifesto ‘For The Many Not The Few” we committed to increasing Police numbers by 10,000 across the country. It’s vital the public are protected and feel safe. In West Mercia, Labour’s commitment to recruiting Police Officers would mean us lobbying for our share of this, which equates to at least 100 Officers, hopefully more, given the special issues we face. By electing a Labour Government, and a Labour MP in Wyre Forest, local people could make that a reality. It’s likely we’ll get an election sooner rather than later given the Tory Brexit chaos, and I hope people will bear this in mind. It should also mean the kind of horrific animal massacre we’ve seen here might be prevented because these frankly deranged perpetrators will think twice before doing it, if there’s a higher likelihood they’ll get caught. Police numbers are a valuable deterrent and the current Government dismiss this fact at their peril. The public deserve a properly resourced Police service, not one starved of funds so the Tories can give tax bungs to their rich mates.”

(Sources – ONS, Police data, UKCS, WCC, WFDC, LGA, PHE, NHS, The Shuttle, Wyre Life)

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