Council leader accused of 'failing' county over police cuts
PUBLISHED: 16:36 16 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:36 16 May 2019
PAUL STARR Photographer
The leader of Essex County Council has been accused of misjudging crime priorities by failing to stand up for the county in the face of police cuts, despite pledging £500,000 of council money to fight county line drugs gangs.
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David Finch repeated council action to offer £500,000 of extra funding to help police tackle so-called county lines drugs in Full Council yesterday. But the move was criticised as trivial given the scale of cuts the force has faced - it lost 400 officers between 2011 and last year. And although those numbers are increasing again - 150 new police officer were recruited last year and another 215 will be over the next year - Lib Dem Barry Aspinell councillor said Cllr Finch should have spoken out more at the time. He said: "In February you gave us the spiel about this being the best this council or any administration has ever put forward in this great county of ours. "And now you are crowing about putting money into helping the police and crime commissioner look after some of the problems we have got in Essex. "Where were you when the previous police and crime commissioner closed dozens of police stations around Essex and sacked hundreds of police officers, leading to this rise in crime? "We have young people in Essex being knifed to death. We have drugs running rife throughout the county. "And you are telling us you are putting £500,000 to fight that. "We needed you when it was needed to stand up for us and our community to stop the Conservative crime commissioner move to reduce the effectiveness of crime prevention in Essex." On tackling the scourge of county lines gangs, the first Violence and Vulnerability Round Table took place on May 10. This forum is the first of a series of multi-agency meetings which bring together the police, youth offending services, public health, and local government to create a partnership approach to dealing with all violent crime in Essex. ECC says the funding will help the partnership to undertake early identification, referral and support of those at risk, to provide education, myth busting, skills and qualifications to vulnerable young people so they are less likely to become involved in gang activity, and to undertake disruption activity to create the conditions in which gang activity cannot thrive. Cllr Finch said: "The decision made in terms of the force and distribution of the force and efficiency of the force is a matter for the police and crime commissioner. "Let me be clear, in putting forward the £500,000. I didn't do that for the benefit of the police force, I did that for the benefit of residents of Essex. "Those are the people who are suffering with crime and those are the people who are suffering from the issues of drug peddling. "It would be remiss of me and my cabinet to ignore those issues. "Where there is the opportunity to find funding it is the right thing to do."