Posted: Friday 1st August 2014
This week I was pleased to announce over £2.6m funding for projects across Avon and Somerset to reduce crime, increase community safety and support victims.
The projects which come to me through the local councils are varied, exciting and far-reaching. It is one of the most interesting parts of the job. One where I can work with local community safety partnerships on an Avon and Somerset wide-basis to really see what can improve lives and help residents to feel safe.
This year’s funding has gone towards programmes that reduce the risk of young people being involved in gang activity and schemes with schools to reduce street conflict. As well as a support service to help victims of anti-social behaviour and drug and alcohol treatment for those affected by domestic violence, both as perpetrators and victims. This funding will go a long way to making a difference, reducing crime and supporting victims.
I saw first-hand how a little bit of funding can go a long way on a project that truly has local involvement. Last week I visited the newly reinvigorated St Andrew’s Park, following funding from the PCC’s Community Action Fund. I must admit Trustees and I did have to carefully consider the three-year £5,000 application. I knew that it would be very difficult to balance the potential critical ‘flower power’ headlines against a backdrop of reducing police budgets. However I must say I have been amazed by the support, enthusiasm and local reaction to the project. I enjoyed my first visit to St Andrews Park so much I went back to the park on Saturday to see again how the project was going and what local people really thought of it.
Even at 9.30 on Saturday morning I met families, children and adults enjoying the park telling me that there had been occasions when they had not felt safe in the park but this had all changed. I’ve been really impressed. This is the exact reason I set up the Commissioner’s Community Action Fund, so local people could have a little support to solve local problems. I just hope that following the success of St Andrews I see further applications from residents because £5,000 can make a big difference to local people’s lives.
Balancing the spending in the police budget, the needs of local people and the demands on the Constabulary is not an easy job. I am always acutely aware that it is public money running our police service. I am pleased to report that Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has given Avon and Somerset an "outstanding" award for the way it is meeting the financial challenge. Avon and Somerset was only one of five forces in the country rated this highly.
HMIC applauded Avon and Somerset for responding "extremely effectively" to the spending review challenges and for taking a longer term view to ensure future sustainability. They also sought the views from staff and residents to find out whether they had noticed any changes in the service following the budget reductions.
I hope residents are reassured that Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s focus on fighting crime has not been deterred despite the cutbacks. Finding savings since 2010 has not been easy and I am sure we will have to continue to make difficult decisions in the years ahead.