At the start of each of our monthly Town Council meetings, Penistone Town Council has 10 minutes of public participation where members of our community have the opportunity to directly speak to their Town Councillors. Yesterday at our February meeting, we had to suspend standing orders as public participation ran on for about half an hour – and rightly so.
We heard from parents of children who have been affected by a growing drug problem in Penistone. We heard about how it is affecting them as families and their frustrations that, having reported issues to the Police and other authorities, no-one seems to be listening or doing anything to help them. They came to raise the issue with us and ask us for our help and support. Believe me every single councillor present was affected by what these parents told us and we were equally frustrated at how little we can do to solve these problems apart from attempting to get the people who can do something around a table talking to each other. We will do everything we possibly can to help believe me.
However this is the tip of what is becoming a very large and very visible iceberg called Policing in Penistone. It is something the Town Council have been decrying for a long time. Over the last couple of years we have seen regular police presence in Penistone gradually diminish to a virtual zero. Our Police station stands empty most of the time. Our Policing will be directed from Kendry soon – the other side of Barnsley. It is very clear that a certain element of society is starting to fill the gap left by our disappearing Police presence – the stories told to us last night are yet more evidence of this.
No matter what we say, our pleas appear to be falling on deaf ears. Penistone was a low crime area, which is why it has been stripped of its regular policing. It will surely become a high crime area in quick time if something doesn’t change soon. Maybe the time has come for some direct action to not only highlight the frustrations felt by the people of Penistone and its outlying communities, but to try and force some action by those who set policing priorities.
I am posing this as a question rather than a suggestion at the moment, but consider the facts. In the last three years the precept we in Penistone pay towards our police has increased by the maximum amount. When our council tax bills fall on our doorsteps soon we will see a 3.26% increase in what we have to pay towards our Police – something we don’t seem to get in Penistone. Last year, a band D council tax resident payed about £16 per month for policing in Penistone – yet we don’t seem to have any policing in Penistone any more.
Amber Rudd, our Home Secretary says that the government is protecting the funding of Policing. What she doesn’t say is that direct government funding for South Yorkshire Police has been cut by over £1m in each of the last 2 years (and even more before then). When she says funding is protected she is assuming the shortfall is taken up by us with our precept. If not a direct lie, it isn’t exactly an honest statement is it?
However this brings us back to the fact we are paying more in Penistone for a Police force we no longer seem to get. Would those who set Policing priorities listen more if all of a sudden the part of the borough that pays the most council tax suddenly withheld its contribution to the Police precept as a protest to the lack of Policing we get? The irony is of course that whilst it might be a big effort to get the Police out to tackle drug issues in Penistone, we’d quickly be prosecuted for non-payment of council tax. Whose priorities are these? Yet again it is Penistone the cash-cow. They bleed us dry and leave us high and dry!