Wednesday March 9th 2016
Jim Muirhead, Councillor for Midlothian South ward of Midlothian Council, speaks out against the budget decisions made yesterday by Midlothian Council councillors.
“Frankly I am embarrassed to be part of a council that took the decisions that it did today. The council was sitting with over £15m in reserves when it only needs to have £8m. So it does not need to make the cuts that were passed today.
I opposed almost all of the cuts put forward on that basis, but the one that I was most concerned about was the complete removal of all our community based police teams by the end of the coming financial year.
For the avoidance of doubt that is 14 less police front line police officers on the streets in Midlothian.
I know that people have concerns about anti social and criminal behaviour in some of our communities and the police response to these, but imagine what it is going to be like with 14 less officers available.
We are not talking about community wardens here. These are police teams who in the last couple of months spent well over 500 hours on patrol in Midlothian, conducted 71 personal drug searches, 25 of which were positive, conducted 16 positive drug searches in properties, confiscated large quantities of alcohol from young people, carried out over 200 bail curfew and warrant checks, and carried out almost 90 arrests. They made 34 referrals to social work regarding children at risk of harm and 16 adults at risk of harm. They carried out a whole range of other activites across Midlothian in the same period.
THIS WAS ALL ACTIVITY IN ADDITION TO THOSE CARRIED OUT BY THE NORMAL POLICE OFFICERS SERVING MIDLOTHIAN – ALL THIS ACTIVITY WILL GO
I literaly pleaded with the SNP group to reconsider their position on this cut and also with the Green and Independent Councillor as well at the meeting, but frankly they appeared to be more interested in political point scoring that listening to reason.
Every survey that is done by the council, every consultation excersise carried out, has dealing with anti social behaviour at the top or near the top of the list, yet no regard whatsoever was paid to this at the meeting today.
Councillor Parry, who made most of the contributions on behalf of the SNP administration at the meeting answered my pleas by stating that there were other ways to use resources to combat anti social behaviour in our communities, but failed to explain what.
The reality is that, when it comes to dealing with anti social or criminal behaviour in our communities there is simply no substitute for police on the streets.
Although funding will end in March 2017, the police service will have to take action to reduce the teams ahead of that point, there will therefore be an impact on their effectiveness quicker than that.
I note that most of the Councillors who voted for this today don’t live in the communities that will be most affected by this appaling decision. They were not prepared to listen to me and my colleagues today. Maybe they will listen to you.
If you are concerned about this cut you must make sure that your councillors who voted for this know about your views.
Please share this as widely as you can. Maybe if we all make enough noise we can force a rethink before it’s too late.”
Councillor for Midlothian South ward of Midlothian Council