At the start of every new year we all look forward with optimism and confidence; we welcome change and renewal – something I think we are rather good at in Suffolk.
Already this year we’ve heard the fantastic news that Bury St Edmunds will host the start of the Women’s Cycling Tour of Britain. It’s a superb opportunity to promote the county to millions of viewers as one of the most beautiful areas in England. Personally, I can’t wait for the atmosphere and excitement it will create in the town! It will raise the profile of Suffolk as a great county for cycling.
Not so good is the sad news that our American friends and allies are set to leave Mildenhall Airbase. Although it is comforting there will be some staff transfers and expansion of operations at the neighbouring base in Lakenheath.
The completion of the A11 dualling through Elveden is very timely and a testament to the dogged determination of all those who lobbied for so long to remove this bottleneck on one of our major roads. Better road connections will help the renewal and regeneration of the Mildenhall Airbase. At least we have several years to make plans and I do believe the economic outlook is better than four years ago.
I’ve experienced this ‘can-do’ attitude all over Suffolk and it’s a very important asset. The challenges at Mildenhall do, to some extent, mirror the situation our constabulary is in. We face a considerable change in funding over the next few years and the pattern of crime is changing fast. We have to completely transform the way policing operates, whilst keeping us all safe. Running away from the problem or behaving like a load of ostriches is highly irresponsible. It is not all doom and gloom though, I have no doubt that Suffolk will rise to the challenge. As the sayings go, out of adversity comes opportunity and necessity is the mother of invention.
Suffolk has a wonderful and vibrant community spirit. People really do look after and care for those who are less fortunate or vulnerable. As Police and Crime Commissioner I have been humbled at what the voluntary sector has achieved, particularly in the west of the county. The voluntary sector makes an enormous contribution to our well being in Suffolk.
Recently I was delighted to meet some of the volunteers at Suffolk Mind to talk about the work they are doing with victims of domestic abuse who have mental health conditions. I have allocated some funding to support this valuable work. Not only is domestic abuse a brutal crime for the victims but we must remember that in 40 per cent of cases involve children and sadly there is plenty of evidence to show that children who witness domestic abuse often become offenders in the future. So we must all work together to break this cycle.
I’ve also allocated funds to the Papworth Trust in Bury. They are working with some of our citizens who suffer from addiction and substance misuse along side their mental health conditions.
There is a very clear link between higher levels of crime and addiction. If we can cure people from addiction it leads to less crime and is cheaper for the taxpayer. We cannot afford to turn a blind eye to this problem.
Fighting crime isn’t just about policing, organisations such as Mind and the Papworth Trust play a crucial part in reducing demand on the constabulary. Reducing demand on the police and other public services is a very important part of meeting the budgetary shortfall. 2015 is the year to develop our plans and start putting them into practice. It will involve making some difficult choices.
The constabulary is doing its share by leaving no stone unturned for saving money – we will be reviewing all budgets, the buildings, fleet management, public access and community safety.
Today I have only scratched the surface of all the fantastic work done by the voluntary sector in West Suffolk but it gives us great cause for optimism for 2015. If we change our mind-set, we have nothing to fear and can look forward with optimism.
Tim Passmore is Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner