Vera Baird

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First Few Week’s of 2017

25th January 2017

The first few weeks of 2017 have probably been the most eventful in a generation.

We now have President Trump installed in the White House, as I write this article he is meeting with congressional leaders to repeat his claim that five million illegal ballots lost him the popular vote – I had hoped that once he became one of the world’s major politicians he would raise his game and see the bigger picture.

Trump is certainly seeing a picture and its not a nice one. He has banned the US government from giving funding to health groups that offer abortion counselling, he signed an order reinstating the ‘global gag rule’, which denies US foreign aid to groups who perform or actively promote terminations.   Whilst signing these orders, he was surrounded by men, not a single women in sight. It does beg the question who has advised him to rush through these orders.

The US funds international family planning and reproductive health groups around the world to the tune of $600 million a year.  This money helps 27 million woman access contraceptives.  The rule was introduced by Regean in 1984, revoked by Clinton in 1993 and reintroduced by Bush in 2001.  It took Obama three days into his first term to revoke it – it has taken Trump less than 24 hours to reintroduce it.

I do worry about a Trump presidency, his ignorance of women’s rights and equality.  I hope when Theresa May meets Trump in February, she makes it clear that America, like the UK should be leading the way in delivering equality – not hindering it.

The government probably hopes that January doesn’t set the tone for the rest of 2017.  The Supreme Court dismissing the government’s appeal was a huge blow to the Prime Minister.  I firmly believe that it is right that Parliament take the decision when Article 50 is triggered.  Parliament’s voice will now be heard, both the House of Commons and House of Lords will have a vote and that is the right way forward.  Theresa May can’t keep saying “Brexit means Brexit” – we will now find out more detail and how it will affect the communities we serve. 

Since the start of the New Year, I have been consulting with residents regarding the Police precept element of the Council Tax. Just before Christmas, the Government recently announced that Northumbria Police will receive central grant funding of £222.7m in 2017/18, a cash reduction of £3.0m.  The Government has stated that this figure can be increased to £259.6m in total funding for 2017/18 - but only if the police precept part of the local council tax is raised by £5 per year for a Band D property. If the precept is not raised by that amount there will be further cuts of up to £1.9m. This is in addition to the funding reduction of over 23% that Northumbria has suffered over the past five years.

In Northumbria people living in a band D property currently pay  £93.33 per year in council tax for their police service. A £5.00 per year increase on that figure, as required by the Government, would mean an extra 10p a week. Most residents in Northumbria have a band A property and for those the increase would be less than 7p a week (£3.33 for the full year).  Northumbria currently has the lowest police precept of all the 43 police forces in England and Wales, by a very long way due to historical factors.

I will make my final decision over the next couple of weeks, after sounding out further advice from partners and the Chief Constable.  I will also be consulting with our council Leaders.  I can assure readers, that the Chief Constable and I are doing our very best to preserve the high standards of policing that we are used to here and we have looked at all options to save money to protect neighbourhood policing. This is truly becoming a struggle now with repeated government cuts. If the police precept is not increased by £5 per year for a band D property, it will have a further significant downward impact on what we can achieve.

I’m disappointed that yet again, the Government did not consult on whether the police precept should be increased. They are telling me that we must raise the precept or lose out. Whatever the decision, I will continue to ensure Northumbria Police continue to deliver the best policing possible to communities across Northumbria.