‘Will Exmouth police station have enough officers to fill it?’

Paul Millar www.exmouthjournal.co.uk

Exmouth’s need for a new police station has been a longstanding one, but its need for neighbourhood police officers is greater.

Seven years have passed since the station closed to the public, with not a whisper heard from the Conservative government, responsible for closing it.

Over the past two years since I was elected, I have written to the Police & Crime Commissioner on numerous occasions on behalf of local residents, many of whom contacted me appalled at the fact for a town of our large size, we don’t have enough officers to deal with local issues.

Commissioner Hernandez has said that she hopes the new station will improve ‘visibility’. She has suggested that her own officers may be frustrated that the station has been prioritised over new officers. I’m not surprised.

Being a good public servant requires the ability to order priorities according to the need of residents. For a town of Exmouth’s size, it is unacceptable not to have a public police reception with a ‘Lost and Found’ service and an enquiry desk. So this news is to be welcomed.

But it won’t on its own make our streets safer, and in that regard will not fully reassure the public.

What residents experiencing anti-social behaviour need are more neighbourhood police officers on the streets.

As a constituent and retired former Inspector was at pains to tell me, the new police officers announced does not go far enough to replace the frontline officers lost since the Tories came to power.

Indeed, since Commissioner Hernandez has been in post, there has been a drop in the number of police officers in frontline roles.

When Commissioner Hernandez refers to a ‘record number of police officers’, it is neither visible to my constituents, nor is it true.

Exmouth, like the rest of Devon and Cornwall, has much fewer numbers of police officers as a proportion of its population than the vast majority of other areas of England and Wales.

As such, police officers here are often under extreme pressure due to under-resourcing decided nationally, while my constituents suffer.

Demand in Exmouth is getting ever greater. Government policy on developments which so often lead to houses piled on top of each other, with no infrastructure, are also a problem as they create the ingredients for conflict.

If we are to be both tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime, central government must commit to greater devolution of its almost Stalinist planning regime to local areas so as to give local people with more local knowledge greater power to design their communities with more care and sensitivity than a civil servant (the Inspector) in Whitehall.

In addition, the police require clear and and proportionate strategic direction on how they prioritise their limited resources.

Neither our police force, nor our democracy, are served by the wicked attempt by the (still) Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel to outlaw peaceful protests which just happen to be ‘noisy’.

While the House of Lords rejected it a fortnight ago, Johnson and Patel appear determined to force through and it is coming back to the House of Commons.

Peaceful protests are a basic human right. While they’re more likely seen in Exeter than in Exmouth, the protests in opposition to the appalling treatment by East Devon District Council of local Exmouth families running businesses on the seafront in Exmouth was effective in raising the important issue of the Conservative run Council’s historic lack of empathy towards ordinary people.

A new law would effectively ban the only action some local citizens have to disagree with actions they, often rightly, perceive as unacceptable.

These days, the new rainbow coalition administration in control of the council ensures that local people are beginning to be treated with more dignity and respect, but much of the old guard still remain.

A new law to ban protest would undermine this work.