Councillor James Baker: Calderdale has caught a bug and we know the cure

Continuing to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour
Continuing to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour

The Borough of Calderdale is sick. We might be enjoying the fine weather and visits to the renovated Piece Hall. But there is a nagging pain that doesn’t seem to be going away.

We are continuing our campaign to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour. At the last council meeting we proposed another motion to try and get the cabinet of the council to take this issue seriously. Their ambition is to make Calderdale the best borough in the North but on crime we are languishing bottom of the league table. We are ranking of 18 out of 20 comparative Northern boroughs.

Just as leading an unhealthy lifestyle can increase your chance of diseases, so do unhealthy public policies. Our society’s immune system to this disease has been weakened. The front line of defence, our police forces have suffered cut after cut from the Conservative Government. Far from being the party of law and order they are overseeing rising crime rates across the country.

The police can help fight the disease but, as with all diseases, prevention is better than cure. Here too though, what do we see? Youth services have been cut, re-offending and probation services have been cut and prisons are overcrowded and unable to offer the reform services we require. Furthermore, mental health and substance abuse services are inadequate. If we do fewer of the things that help prevent crimes, then is it any wonder that crime is rising?

Money is tight so here are some liberal ideas that could help with the cure.

Firstly, we would increase spending on mental health services with an extra 1p on a £1 earnt going to the NHS. The police currently spend a lot of their time dealing with people in a state of mental health crisis.

Better mental health services could prevent some people reaching a crisis state.

Secondly, we would legalise cannabis. This would have many positive effects.

Firstly, it would bring in £3.5bn extra revenue on taxation. This could be used to fund substance abuse programmes. We know many crimes are committed by drug addicts so let’s treat them, rather than turning them into criminals.

It would also free up police time and energy spent policing the illicit trade and create a regulated industry. This would deprive organised criminal gangs of an income source and free up police time to focus on other crimes like burglaries, violent crime, people trafficking etc.

US states that have legalised the drug have seen falling usage rates and decreased crime.

Finally, our council could start listening to people and spending its limited funds wisely.

People say we need more traffic officers. We supported this, last year putting forward an amendment to the council’s budget to fund the continuation of the police operation Hawmill. Meanwhile our Labour run council apparently has money to burn and is proposing spending £100k on a trial of bus lane enforcement cameras. Rather than putting up a few cameras, the council could instead be helping to fund a local traffic officer to police our streets and catch criminals.