Too many people think that politics doesn’t matter. That regardless of how you vote, nothing changes.
But the reality is, it does matter who is elected, what promises they’ve made and what they do when they get into power. For nine years we’ve seen huge cuts to our public services. Politics is about choices. What to invest in, where to invest and what not to invest in.
Huge cuts to public sector budgets were a political decision, one I obviously disagreed with and regularly vote against in Parliament, but one lots of people voted for.
Cuts have consequences and after nearly a decade of austerity we’re seeing the impact of those political decisions on our streets and in our communities. Whether that’s the massive spike in foodbank usage locally, longer waiting times at the hospital, or our crumbling roads.
Despite the extraordinary efforts of inspirational public servants, our vital public services are struggling, every day, to look after the most vulnerable, to protect our families and keep us safe.
In recent months this has been far too evident for people living in Kidsgrove. While we’ve seen a rise in crime across North Staffordshire, some of the high-profile incidents we have seen in and around Clough Hall Park have understandably scared families and stopped people feeling safe in our local park.
For some older residents it’s even stopping them popping out to the local shop for fear of abuse. The answers are obvious; this isn’t rocket science: we need a visible community police presence so that people know that they will be caught.
We need to re-open our youth centres to give young people something to do and the role models they need.
And we need to say, as a community, we demand more, we demand better.
Since 2010 Staffordshire Police have been forced to cut 568 warranted officers – nearly 20% of the force. Given the savage cuts to police numbers we really shouldn’t be surprised that despite the efforts of our dedicated local officers, community policing is no longer obvious on our streets.
This isn’t helped by the closure of Kidsgrove and Tunstall police stations, made even worse by Burslem station being closed to the public.
Not only do we have fewer police on the streets, but we can’t even walk into a local police station when we feel scared.
That’s why I’ve written to the Policing Minister asking for additional investment in our communities. We need more police on our streets because everybody should feel safe in their communities – there is no other option.