(L to R) Insp Chris Conway, Cllr Sally Haydon, Mel Stride MP, Cllr Chris Batters, Cllr Phil Hackett, Peter Heaton-Jones MP,
Sarah Wollaston MP, Kit Malthouse MP, Anne-Marie Morris MP, Alison Hernandez, Luke Pollard MP,
Sheryl Murray MP, Sarah Newton MP, Hugo Swire MP, Steve Double MP, Insp Andy Berry, Lizzie Record
MPs from across the south west were united today (Thursday, September 26) to see policing minister Kit Malthouse accept Devon and Cornwall’s bid for additional funding to help police deal with the impact of millions of summer visitors.
Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez headed to Westminster with a delegation of councillors, MPs and police representatives from across the force area to hand the bid in.
The Devon and Cornwall force is the largest in England and receives more tourists than any other force outside London, yet has one of the lowest police officer densities in the country.
Visitor numbers have boomed in recent years due to the popularity of Westcountry resorts and a low pound.
While tourists bring prosperity to the two counties and islands that make up the force area, there is no direct revenue from this to fund police, who feel the strain of the ‘summer surge’ Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez argues in a 60-page bid for Special Grant funding.
Devon and Cornwall officers and staff struggle to cope with an 11% rise in crime in the months between April and September, a 14% rise in incidents and an 18% increase in missing people.
The Home Office Special Grant fund comprises of £73m which is ‘top-sliced’ from police forces and then used to deal with exceptional or unusual circumstances. Last year it was used to help Wiltshire Police cope with the Salisbury novichok nerve agent poisoning.
The bid details £17.9 of expenditure over three years that is linked to the ‘summer surge’ and requests compensation for this.
“We have invested heavily in services like the rural crime team and innovated by collaborating with other emergency services to create new roles to help the force cope with unprecedented levels of calls for service over the past three years,” said Ms Hernandez.
“The increase in activity is no longer confined to the school summer holidays, we’ve shown that it begins in April and lasts right through to September, but the impact on our people and the communities they serve is year-round because training and leave have to be taken in the remaining six months.
“The force has to deal with this additional challenge of a peninsula that is isolated from others, with just 10% of it is within six miles of another force area, and it’s predominantly rural, so our resources and spread thinly.
“Devon and Cornwall are stunning places to visit but we’re not free from crime. In recent months two huge cocaine hauls were detected off our coast, the force has disrupted county lines drug dealing schemes and a serious and organised people smuggling operation.
“Our communities deserve consistently good service from the force this bid is all about us being able to keep them, and our visitors, safe.”
Among those travelling to the capital with the commissioner is Inspector Andy Berry, chairman of the Devon and Cornwall Police Federation. He said the impact on summer leave created a challenge for officers.
“Time spent with one’s family is precious and officers find it particularly tough when they are refused leave during the summer period,” he said.
“This not only serves to erode their morale but also increases their stress levels due the persistent high levels of work pressure over the summer period.”
Torbay MP Kevin Foster described the case put forward by the PCC as ‘compelling’.
He said: “Devon & Cornwall is a fantastic place for a holiday, especially Torbay, yet this puts particular pressure on our local police during the summer. Sadly not every visitor behaves well and some specifically seek to target the vulnerable or those enjoying a break over our peak period. The case being put forward for recognition of this in funding terms is compelling."