Leigh Observer Column - 18th December 2018

Last week was another busy week in Parliament whilst the Prime Minister continued to negotiate Brexit. The negotiations have not gone as well as they ought but I shall continue to do all I can to ensure that a Brexit that serves all our interests is delivered. However, despite the distractions of Brexit, I will not forget the local issues that residents raise with me on the doorstep.

In the constituency one of the biggest concerns people raise with me is the lack of visible policing on our streets and the increases in crime. People tell me of their concerns over the level of anti-social behaviour which blights people’s lives but there have also been instances of serious violence in recent weeks, such as the devastating Atherton Library attack.

In recent years, we have all had to work hard to balance the budget to ensure that we get our economy back on the right track but now that our economy has improved, we must see investment in our vital public services, especially our police.

During meetings with the Secretary of State and the policing minister, I have been calling for more police funding so that we can have more police on our streets and our police have the right resources to carry out their important work.

Despite recent political turbulence, the government is listening to our concerns over policing, last week announcing that Greater Manchester Police will see an increase in funding by up to £34.7milion next year.

As many of us are now living healthier and longer lives, we forget that this has put its strains on pensions, police pensions included.  Within this new funding, £6.6million has been dedicated to police pensions, recognising this strain and ensuring that our retired police continue to get the pension they deserve for their challenging work.

Now that our Greater Manchester Police have been allocated this additional funding, it’s important it goes in the right direction. The Police and Crime Commissioner Andy Burnham needs to ensure that each of our towns receive its fair share of funding.

The first role of our police is to prevent crime from happening and that’s what the Police and Crime Commissioner should now be focusing on. For many, seeing police on our streets not only provides a sense of security and safety but also acts as a form of crime deterrence and I am calling on Andy Burnham to ensure that this funding is used to support greater police presence in our local area. 

Yet, it’s also important for me to understand the concerns of our local police, which is why I joined them on Saturday night patrol during which police officers told me about the red tape that got in the way of them doing their job.

For instance, two police officers have to wait with anyone who is either drunk or high on illegal drugs to sober up before they can access any required mental health services, seeing police spending less time on patrol and more time providing a care service.

In an increasingly complex modern society with family breakdowns, availability of illegal drugs and alcohol and a loss of community, there are more challenges on mental health which, if people don’t receive the necessary support, can spiral into further problems, including criminality.

The government has recognised that more needs to be done to get mental health right and in the autumn budget a £2billion investment in mental health services was announced. This should alleviate the pressures pressure on local mental health services and we have already seen local improvements with the new £40million mental health hospital in Atherleigh and the extension of a mental health unit at The Spinney.

It is reassuring to see that action is being taken to address our local concerns despite recent political events and going forward into the New Year, I will continue to ensure that your concerns are heard in Westminster.

On a more positive note, it is safe to say that the festive season is now upon us! With this being my last column of this year, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.