We need a strong focus on crimes that blight our community | Antony Higginbotham
This week in Parliament has been characteristically varied and busy, with issues being debated in the House including the tragic conflict now engulfing Israel and Palestine, an increase in anti-Semitic hate crime, Covid-19, the advances we need to make on health and social care, and the biggest reforms to the railways in a generation – with the forming of Great British Railways.
But one issue has been particularly dominant for me, and it’s one which I receive quite a lot of correspondence from residents about – crime and anti-social behaviour.
It began on Monday, in a debate on the Queen’s Speech where the Government set out some major legislation coming before Parliament in this session.
It includes landmark reforms of our immigration and asylum system to make it fairer and crack down on those who seek to enter illegally; reforms of the Official Secrets Act to ensure we keep up with technology; and new legislation to counter state-based threats and espionage which is on the rise.
During my contribution in the debate, I welcomed these measures which I know will make a difference in improving safety on our streets and improving public confidence in the system.
From small boats being escorted onto our shores, to the terrible events in Salisbury where Russia decided using a biological substance on UK soil was acceptable – we must be firm.
But I also made the point that we need to be equally as resolute on the crime that blights our community’s week in, week out.
From speeding vehicles and fly-tipping to anti-social behaviour and rural crime.
When I was elected, I promised to tackle these issues head on and over the past 18 months we’ve been making steady progress.
Whether that is the 8,711 extra police officers that have already been recruited (199 extra in Lancashire so far, and we’re not yet half-way through that recruitment drive of 20,000), or the tougher sentencing that is currently being brought in to make sure that the most serious criminals face the full force of the law.
It’s a promise I made and one which is being delivered on.
And this week I also took up my role as a member of the Public Bill Committee scrutinising the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
This is one of the longest pieces of legislation I have come across since entering Parliament but it’s also one I think is vital we get through.
Just some of the things it delivers includes longer sentences for the worst offences; the ending of early release half-way through a sentence for dangerous offenders; protections for our emergency service workers from assault; crack downs on unauthorised encampments; and, a new framework for how we deal with those who cause so much misery to our community through their criminal activities, including anti-social behaviour and repeat offending.
Because only by backing our police with the funding, powers, and resources they need are we going to be able to keep people safe.
I also know with the election of Andrew Snowden as our new Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire that we have somebody in the team who is just as determined to drive down crime in Burnley and Padiham as I am.
For far too long we’ve had nothing but talk when it comes to tackling crime. Delivering on these historic bills to toughen sentences, alongside the increased numbers of officers that are being deployed on the streets of Burnley and Padiham is real action.
Finally, on Wednesday the Secretary of State for Health announced that Burnley would receive a surge in vaccine doses and testing.
This follows detailed analysis, using cutting edge techniques, of where the Covid-19 virus is continuing to spread, allowing us to tackle the issue early.
As with all healthcare matters, early identification allows for early treatment and this is exactly what we’re doing now.
The extra testing will allow more pop-up test sites to be established, and I’d encourage everyone to take up the offer.
This can be done at one of the test sites, by picking up free tests from a local pharmacy, or ordering some online. Similarly, the extra vaccine doses will mean our NHS and volunteers can go out into the community and offer a jab to those who are eligible but haven’t come forward yet.
Through this combined, and targeted action, we’re making sure that we continue to progress down the roadmap so our lives can get back to normal.