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MPs debate crime and rural services

MPs have called on the government to ensure rural communities are not disadvantaged in the delivery or quality of public services.

The call was made during a debate on Wednesday (6 June) opened by shadow policing minister Louise Haigh on rural crime and public services.

Ms Haigh called on the government to ensure that the personal, social and economic costs of crime and anti-social behaviour in rural areas are fully understood.

“In the public imagination and in international reputation, rural Britain is a place of near meadows, still streams and sleepy villages,” she said.

“But the challenges facing it and its police forces are significant and unique.”

One of the greatest challenges our policing model faces was its ability to provide a consistent service to every victim, and indeed offender, regardless of where they lived.

Ms Haigh suggested there was a perception that – as budget cuts bite – rural crime is more trivial but rural communities were no longer immune to serious crime.

Taking one example, she said more than 88,000 farm animals were snatched by thieves, worth over £6m farmers, in the most recent year for which figures are available.

Yet police had been cut to a level at which they were unable to prevent and respond to crime, and the demand placed on them was completely unprecedented.

Calling for fairer funding, Ms Haigh said: “Clearly the police funding formula needs to take into account the real picture of demand and pressure facing every police force.

“We know that the current funding formula is broken. It uses age-old data and does not reflect the needs, demands and pressures on forces, nor the modern demands of policing.”

Responding for the government, Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said there was no definition of rural crime because crime knew no boundaries.

“The crimes that can be found in urban areas can also be found in rural areas,” she said.

Ms Atkins said the government had “absolutely recognised” the resources the police needed.

“That is precisely why in 2015 the then Home Secretary insisted in the spending review that the Government protected overall police funding in real terms, and we have done so since.

“We have also increased our investment to support police transformation and technology, so that our police can respond to the changing nature of crime.”

The full debate can be accessed here.

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