After the torrential downpours just before the Suffolk Show, we are now enjoying ‘Flaming June’ and the gardens and countryside right across the county look stunning.
Driving along the A14 between Bury and Newmarket definitely has added attractions at this time of year with everything looking so lush and green. One of my favourite drives is between Bury and Brandon, especially at this time of the year – the vista is simply stunning and on a par with some of John Constable’s greatest works. And yet while many of us prosper in our villages and market towns and one reflects on the wealth involved in the horse racing industry– one of our county’s great global businesses – we must remember that not everything is fine and dandy for everyone.
For many years I have been greatly concerned that far too many Suffolk people suffer from a lack of opportunity to better themselves, especially in the more remote rural areas. This could be due to poor education, the lack of a caring and stable family background devoid of proper parental role models or even poor access to services such as healthcare and public transport. If you are struggling then life can be unacceptably tough.
Some will ask, why does a Police and Crime Commissioner care about this? The answer is simple – there is a clear link between economic and general deprivation and crime. This can manifest itself in many ways such as in raised levels of addiction, domestic abuse, serious sexual offences and general anti- social behaviour. Businesses are also affected by criminal damage, shoplifting and even arson. So what do we do?
There is no magic wand, but it’s not acceptable to throw our hands up in the air and say it’s too difficult or someone else should take responsibility. In a civilised society all of us have a responsibility particularly those in a leadership position to address the problem as a matter of urgency. That’s why we were so pleased to help launch the Rural Lifeline Fund at the Suffolk Show. The idea came from one of Suffolk’s greatest advocates, Lady Euston who is also the president of the Suffolk Agricultural Association.
The funding target for the Rural Lifeline Fund is to establish an endowment of £1 million but it is likely to be at least three years before any worthwhile payments can be made. In my view we must be proactive and do all we can to keep Suffolk’s reputation as a low crime area which is attractive to live, work, travel and invest in. We will never be forgiven if we turn a blind eye to the plight of those unfortunate individuals and fail to come to their aid. In the fight against crime we must look at everything possible but in particular we must change our approach and be much more proactive and try to prevent people, especially our youngsters, getting into a life of crime. Prevention is always better and cheaper than cure.
I will be donating £15,000 to the Rural Lifeline Fund for each of the next three years which will be match-funded from other sources and can be spent straightaway while the endowment fund is built. The condition of the award is that it helps to deliver the objectives of Suffolk’s Police and Crime Plan. That will not be difficult as many of the key aims of the Rural Lifeline Fund revolve around economic development, dealing with addiction, domestic abuse, serious sexual offences, anti-social behaviour and business crime, the same as our Police and Crime Plan.
It’s a very exciting initiative supported by the Suffolk Foundation and the Suffolk Agricultural Association. I am told there are over 5,000 charities in Suffolk, many of which are very small and don’t attract national headlines. But this is what is so special about our county – its sense of community and place and when people are in need we find ways of helping each other. It should make us proud and privileged to live in such a wonderful county.