SHREDDING youth services in urban areas could lead to a rise in crime, warns Northumbria’s new Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird.
The former MP for Redcar used her first day in office to hit out against Newcastle city council’s decision to pull funding for youth and play services in a bid to save £90m.
At a press conference in Gateshead she warned that funding cuts to services for young people could not be weathered by policing budgets.
She said: “In my role as PCC I’ll have some resourcing for community safety and it won’t be massive and it won’t make up for what’s gone. Youth services are a priority for me. We have to try to prevent crime.”
The former barrister, who was elected as a Labour commissioner last week, claimed that the “dreadful” cuts she said had been imposed on the council by the Government would leave young people “bereft of positive things to engage them”.
She said: “If anybody wanted to devise a formula to try to limit anti-social behaviour, they certainly wouldn’t devise the formula of cuts to the police and youth services so that we have no other way of diverting young people who may get caught up in adventures that lead them astray.
“Clearly we will want to do what we can to make sure young people have very positive things to do in their spare time in the hope we can tackle anti-social behaviour is key.”
She also used the press conference to announce her deputy as ex-chief superintendent Mark Dennett who she said shared her vision to improve the force.
A fightback against cuts to the force will also be a first priority and Ms Baird praised Chief Constable Sue Sim’s work to defend Northumbria from further budget reductions. She said: “I will be meeting the chief constable very quickly. She seems confident that she’s able to cope with the current scheduled cuts without serious decline in the quality of service.
“I’m very anxious to look at whether that is correct and to see if there’s anything I can do to fight back against the cuts that have already been made that have not been fully implemented.”
“We’re right at the start of the process but I believe from my campaigning experience we’re starting to feel a little bit of thinness on the ground.”
Her time as commissioner will be governed by One Nation policing principles, as set out by Labour leader Ed Miliband before the PCC campaign, which she claims gives everyone a voice in a diverse geographical region.
Nationally, she also has a say in developing the role for Labour post-holders.
Her academic expertise in how to cut violent crime against women has been transformed into a five-year strategy and adopted by all Labour commissioners across the country. While she praised the force’s enviable crime record she said figures still “need to go down”.
She added: “Drug crime is on the increase, not markedly but in particular in rural Northumberland and we have to look at that with fresh eyes too.”
Work to promote the role will include Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as opening up shops in vacant premises.