Yvette Cooper MP: ‘A need for more police and more investment’

“Our town centres should be the vibrant heart of our communities. But they aren’t getting the support we need from government to make them safe and bustling places to be. That has to change, “ writes Yvette Cooper in her latest Express column.

Friday, 26th November 2021, 12:02 pm
Presence: PCSOs on patrol - more police officers are needed in our towns.

In Castleford we’ve fought hard to get new investment - and we’ve secured £24 million to be spent over the next few years. I’ve been working with Wakefield Council and local businesses and some great ideas have been put forward on things like opening up the riverside, knocking down the old Crimea but trying to reopen the Ship Inn as a new riverside pub. Other ideas include setting up a new skills centre on Sagar Street in partnership with the Castleford Tigers Foundation, improving the town square so we can have more outdoor cafes. Watch out for the public consultation coming soon.

But we also know this only goes so far. The government is refusing to make investment available to all our towns.

It doesn’t make up for the investment that’s been cut over the past ten years. It doesn’t include any support for the policing and other services we need in our town centres. And crucially, the small businesses who we need to thrive in our town centres are still being hit by an unfair tax deal.

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Here’s what we need from government instead. First, they should end business rates for high street shops and pubs and bring in a new business taxation system so the online companies pay their fair share instead. It’s crazy that local shops are taxed much more than online giants.

Second we need police officers back in our towns, as well as local services that too often have been taken away. We lost 20,000 police between 2010 and 2020 – including most of our neighbourhood policing teams which used to be such a reassurance in town centres. We need our neighbourhood policing teams back. Despite all the government’s promises about recruiting more police officers, we aren’t seeing it on the streets. I’m calling for more police and PCSOs in all our towns. Why don’t ministers cancel their proposed new royal yacht that neither the royal family nor our armed forces want and put that money into tackling crime and antisocial behaviour instead?

And most important of all, we need proper national regeneration investment for all our towns to make up for what the government has cut over the past ten years.

Normanton Town Council does amazing work for the local community – including the gala and Christmas lights, but we need investment and policing for the town centre. Work is underway to transform Kellingley Club in Knottingley into a new community centre including a youth club and cafe, but we still badly need more leisure facilities and regeneration at Hill Top. And Wakefield Council has some great plans for Pontefract, but they need support. So far the government is still refusing to allow all towns their share of investment. That’s not fair.

We need a proper industrial strategy to support new skilled jobs in our towns so that young people don’t always have to commute or move away to get skilled or better paid jobs.

Despite the government’s warm words, too much of the investment - both public sector and private sector - is still concentrated in the cities and the south of England. I’m going to keep fighting for a fair deal for all our northern towns.