PCC Responds to Letter from Alexander Stafford MP

Responding to a letter from Conservative MP, Alexander Stafford, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings writes the following:

Dear Alexander

Thank you for your letter. I hope this finds you and your family well, though you do seem to have had some high coronavirus levels down in London.

Your letter ends by asking me to ‘launch a campaign’ in Maltby to further encourage residents to report all crime and ASB they witness, so perhaps I can deal with that first. I will certainly speak to both my staff and the force comms team to see what we might do. I will also ask Crimestoppers whether they have anything planned for Maltby and if not, whether they would consider it. As you know, people sometimes prefer to report through Crimestoppers if they feel intimidated. We will reply to the Town Council and yourself.  Realistically, I think this will be next week now as many of my staff are on annual leave with their children in half –term. (The contacts for this will be Fiona Topliss and Gemma Hyland.)

You will know that I visited the Town Council recently to hear first-hand what members had to say about ASB and crime in the town centre. We took away a number of actions that we are currently following up with the police and others and we will report back in due course. The District Commander – who knows the town well and tells me that he has come or is coming to a town meeting – has outlined to me all that the neighbourhood team is doing and I have also been briefed by the local inspector. As I said to the councillors at the meeting, it would be very much to their advantage to keep in close touch with the inspector, though we do have to remember that neighbourhood officers are not the only ones out and about in the town: there are response officers coming out to incidents and detectives following up with investigations. While the police have their own sources of intelligence, it is vital –as we are acknowledging above – that the public are encouraged to report as well.

We have also been in touch with the Rotherham Utd FC and have been told about the impressive programme of activities for young people they currently run in the town. I have supported their programmes in the past and they can always apply for more grant help should they need it.

I note what you say about the need for ‘South Yorkshire Police to step up the presence in the town and crackdown on crime’. I wouldn’t disagree with that. This is why next week I shall be proposing at my Public Accountability Board a budget for the force next year that will allow them to increase officer numbers in the Rotherham District. The figures for the District will then look like this:

Neighbourhood teams and safer neighbourhood services: 58 (an increase of 13 posts)

Investigations – CID and Protecting Vulnerable People, including CSE victims: 108 (an increase of 16 posts)

Command team: 5 (no change)

Response officers and district support: 163

New recruits/student officers – who will add to the above as they move around the different sections as part of their training: 20 (an increase)

There will be a total increase of 49 posts across the district.

In addition, they will be supported by 131 posts that work across districts, such as the Armed Crime Team, off-road bikers, mounted section, rural crime team, and so on.

Of course, where those officers are deployed is in the final analysis an operational decision of the Chief Constable, but I will certainly make the case for Maltby when I have my weekly meetings with her.

There is, however, one fairly serious matter that I ought to draw to your attention. This increase in officer numbers assumes an increase in the funding available for policing. You acknowledge this in your recent newsletter, pointing out that the government has said that South Yorkshire will have an additional £17.2m available. What you don’t say is that while £12.7m of this will come from government grant, the government’s figures assume that the rest – £4.5m – will come from an increase in precept of £10 on a Band D property. When I proposed this at a recent meeting of the Police and Crime Panel, it was supported by councillors of all parties and the two non-councillor independent members. But it was not supported by the two Conservative councillors who voted against the budget and precept. Yet the chief finance officers of both the police and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner had made it clear to the meeting that the budget with the increased police numbers was dependent on that precept increase. (Even so, the force will have to make efficiency savings of £2m and we shall have to use some reserves to balance.)

I am not sure what we are supposed to make of the voting of the Conservative councillors, including one from Rotherham, but without this precept increase these significant improvements cannot be sustained over the coming years.  Perhaps you could speak to them. We need this funding if, as you say in your letter, we are to ‘step up’ the police presence in Maltby. We cannot increase numbers without it, so we need Conservative councillors to be serious and supportive.

All good wishes