Replace ""

Burnham For Mayor

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Press Release

I am sure I was not alone in feeling very unsettled by news that a man died last week following a late-night altercation on Railway Road.

The police investigation is on-going, and the full circumstances surrounding this incident are not yet clear, but it appears that the man was robbed whilst he lay dying. What kind of people would do something like that? Sadly, this is not the first incident like this in Leigh. Those responsible are beneath contempt and not wanted in a town like ours.

This dreadful news comes at a time when I have been picking up growing concerns from people across the wider Leigh area about rising crime. There are many reports of increasing petty crime in Leigh Town Centre linked to drink and drugs. There is also a feeling that burglaries and car crime are also on the increase, as well as anti-social behaviour on some of our estates.

All of this prompted me to call a meeting at Leigh Town Hall last Friday with senior officers from the Police, Fire Service and Council. I wanted to get a clear picture of what is going on with regards to crime across the town and what can be done to tackle it.

The Police provided figures which confirmed my fears: crime in Leigh is up by 10%, largely due to a marked increase in incidents of domestic violence. Of course, the official figures don't tell the whole story as not all crimes are reported.

So there is a real problem with crime in Leigh and people will rightly want to know what is being done about it.

One of the proposals in the pipeline that could help is the introduction of a Public Spaces Protection Order in Leigh Town Centre. This would given the authorities much greater ability to clamp down on activities like aggressive begging, illegal trading and drug-taking. A consultation on the proposal is still on-going and I would urge anyone who supports it to make their views known via the Council's website using this link

Another area where work is need is on legal highs - which local police say are behind much of the anti-social behaviour in the town centre. Apparently, they are being sold from three outlets in Leigh. I find it utterly disgraceful that any retailer doing business in our town should sell these products. Parliament has passed legislation to make them illegal but it will be some time before it can be enforced. In the meantime, my message to these disreputable retailers is simple: stop now and put public safety before your own pocket.

More broadly, the best way to reduce crime in Leigh is to get to the root cause of it. The truth is that a large number of the crimes in our area are linked to small number of families and individuals. Our local Police and Council are working in much closer partnership to target those causing these problems. That has got to be the best long-term solution. It is not a lifestyle choice to make other people's lives a misery. Those who do should be given a clear choice: change your ways or face the consequences.

But the best answer to rising crime is to put more bobbies on the beat. Sadly, this Government is doing precisely the opposite.

Once again - and for the sixth year in a row - the Government has cut the budget for Greater Manchester Police. This has led to the loss of thousands of front-line officers in recent years. With cuts on this scale, is it any wonder that crime is starting to rise again?

As Shadow Home Secretary, I will continue to do what I can to oppose Tory cuts to neighbourhood policing. This week, I will address the Police Federation Annual Conference in Bournemouth. I will praise police officers all over the country, including in Greater Manchester, for doing a good job in very difficult circumstances. And I will have a simple message for the Home Secretary: with crime in Leigh and elsewhere on the rise, this is no time to cut the Police.

I will take another message with me to Bournemouth that may go down less well with some of those present. I will make it crystal clear that I have no intention of shying away from confronting those who have got policing a bad name in the past.

Following the Hillsborough verdict, I believe changes are needed to make the Police more accountable to the public. So I will be tabling proposals in Parliament later this month to end the situation where police officers can retire and, in so doing, evade misconduct proceedings. I will also be calling for full transparency on another issue from the 1980s - the policing of the Miners' Strike.

On this topic, I have received an interesting letter from a constituent in Astley. He wrote to tell me about a friend who was on picket duty at Bickershaw when non-striking miners were brought in. His friend became involved in a tussle with a police officer with "no visible number". He added: "In the struggle, the tunic of the uniform came open. Under the tunic was a khaki shirt. I have no reason to disbelieve him and it strongly suggests that the Army had been draughted in to augment the Police."

This is not the first time I have heard claims like this. Last year, when I was out campaigning in Golborne, a man said he was glad I had called as he had been wanting to show me something. He went back inside his house and came back with a badge with the words "Military Police" on it. He said it was torn off a uniform as police fought with miners in the local streets.

There is no doubt in my mind that there were some serious untoward practices used by the Thatcher Government when it came to the policing of the Strike. But the truth about this has been hidden in the 30 years since with many of the documents withheld. That is not good enough. People here have a right to know what happened on the streets of our communities.

To support my calls for an Inquiry into the "Battle of Orgreave" and the policing of the Miners' Strike, I would ask anyone in Leigh who has any relevant information from that time to get in touch. The Miners' Strike was one of the most divisive episodes in the history of our country and the scars won't be fully healed until the truth about it is fully told.

Have you been to Pennington Hall Park recently? If not, I would thoroughly recommend a visit. It has always been a jewel in Leigh's crown but, like all parks, it has struggled in recent years. Now, thanks to the incredible efforts of the Friends of Pennington Hall Park (FOPHP), it is well on the way to recapturing some of its former glory.

This voluntary group came together about ten years ago to help revive the fortunes of the Park. And what a difference they have made.

Back then, the Park was plagued by anti-social behaviour. It had become the favourite Friday night meeting place for large groups of young people and something of a no-go area for everyone else. The once-proud bowling greens had become unofficial football pitches and the whole place looked pretty sorry for itself.

To walk into the Park now is to walk into a completely difference place. Shortly after the Friends got to work, the Park gained Green Flag status. It has been on the up ever since.

Crucial to this turn-around has been the conversion of one of the council's maintenance sheds into a welcoming tea-room. It has brought life into the heart of the Park and is run entirely by volunteers.

The driving force behind all this is Trisha Taylor, Chair of FOPHP. Her passion for the Park is infectious and, with the help of the Council, she has plans to continue the improvements. Trisha and her team of dedicated volunteers deserve our thanks and there's better way to show that than to pay them a visit this summer.