Birmingham MP urges Home Secretary Suella Braverman to enable more police to patrol the city

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Birmingham MP Preet Gill (Lab: Edgbaston) has spoken out about the need for more police in her constituency, despite the budget being set by the Labour Police & Crime Commissioner

More police are needed to tackle vehicle crime and burglaries in Edgbaston, according to a Labour MP - despite Labour’s own police and crime commissioner setting local officer budgets.

Preet Gill MP has written to the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, to ask her what she should tell residents who for too long have faced “the reality of a breakdown in neighbourhood policing”.

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Residents too often claim they “never see a police officer on the beat”, according to the MP for Birmingham Edgbaston. She suggested an extra 20 neighbourhood police officers would “double the number of police across the constituency and reduce crime on a scale that we haven’t seen since the last Labour government”.

The MP highlighted ‘chop shops’ – a new phenomena particularly affecting the West Midlands – where undercover garages store dismantled parts from personal cars stripped, broken into, or stolen.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) states over 36,586 vehicle offences were recorded between September 2021 and 2022 – an increase of 26%. In response, a special vehicle crime task force from West Midlands Police has begun operation to focus efforts on vehicle crimes.

She said: “Policing cannot be done on the cheap – whether in terms of funding or officer numbers. Fewer police means victims feel let down, fewer criminals face justice, communities feel under threat and public confidence in the police falls. This is why I wrote to the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman MP, to ask what she would say to my constituents who are deeply fearful for their communities.

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“When [will] my constituency and region see police and PSCO numbers increase? I look forward to receiving her response however, I fear that we won’t begin to see any reduction in crime or anti-social behaviour until we have a general election and secure our next Labour government.”

Birmingham Edgbaston MP Preet GillBirmingham Edgbaston MP Preet Gill
Birmingham Edgbaston MP Preet Gill

The police budget for the West Midlands is set by the Labour Police and Crime Commissioner, Simon Foster, who has been in post since May 2021. Labour have been in control of the post since its formation in 2012.

While the majority of West Midlands Police’s funding comes from central government, a significant part of it comes from a ‘local police precept’ – a tax within council tax paid by members of the public.

Mr Foster claims he is committed to rebuilding neighbourhood policing by putting 450 extra neighbourhood police officers onto the streets of the West Midlands.

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He has argued historic cuts to policing budgets places the force under financial pressure – and smaller than it was in 2010. But the most recent budget detailed by West Midlands police indicates no increase in the number of neighbourhood police officer recruited – at 465 until 2027.

Jay Singh-Sohal, who ran as the Conservative candidate for West Midlands police and crime commissioner, argued Mr Foster has been “ineffective” in lobbying the government for more money to tackle crime.

He said: “West Midlands has been year on year getting more money from the government to take the budget up to £700 million, and not going into places like Thames Valley, or Devon and Cornwall, or Lincolnshire.

“Part of the issue is the historic funding formula issue which I recognise needs to be addressed. But what have Labour actually done to move forward? They’re certainly getting more money in other pots, but that central pot isn’t enough to deal with the issues that we’ve got because we’ve got high crime.

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“All we ever hear from them is passing the buck and the blame game rather than taking responsibility locally for the decisions that should be made to tackle crime.”

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has frequently come under fire for the rhetoric she uses to describe migrants. Credit: PAHome Secretary Suella Braverman has frequently come under fire for the rhetoric she uses to describe migrants. Credit: PA
Home Secretary Suella Braverman has frequently come under fire for the rhetoric she uses to describe migrants. Credit: PA

Mr Singh-Sohal argues the decision to move police officers out of places like Edgbaston into central Birmingham has been the police and crime commissioner’s decision.

“When it comes down to how resources used within a region, it is of course the decision of the police and crime commissioner, who is tasked with that responsibility.

“It is disingenuous for for any MP to say it’s the government’s fault that there’s no not more local neighbourhood police officers in their locality because the person who is responsible and charged to undertake that –  to set an allocation – is the local police and crime commissioner.

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He believes the police and crime commissioner’s office should be merged with the Mayor’s office – similar to Greater Manchester, London, and West Yorkshire.

“You can have a mayor who will lobby the government effectively. If you have police powers merged with the mayoralty, you can apply that against more levers across the policy domain – so employment and education.

“There’s a lot of other areas that need to be explored in order to have a holistic approach. That can only happen with the policy levers and the powers within the mayor’s office.”

West Midlands Police appealWest Midlands Police appeal
West Midlands Police appeal

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper MP said: “The Tories have completely decimated neighbourhood policing, leaving our communities without the protection they need.

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“Knife crime has shot up putting young lives at risk, meanwhile antisocial behaviour is blighting town centres and local communities. But the neighbourhood police who could prevent crimes like this and support victims have disappeared.

“Labour has a serious plan to bring back neighbourhood policing, with a fully funded package for 13,000 extra neighbourhood police on our streets. The last Labour government brought in neighbourhood policing, and now, after more than a decade of Tory neglect, we will restore it.”