Labour Councillors Slam Tory Police Commissioner’s “Partisan Funding Allocation”

Reading Labour councillors subjected Matthew Barber, the Conservative Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner [PCC], to tough questioning during his attendance at Reading Borough Council’s Policy Committee on Monday 17th January 2022.

In September 2021, Mr Barber announced a 52% cut to Reading’s Community Safety funding. This drastic funding cut will mean difficult decisions around vital work to tackling reoffending and residents’ priority issues in Reading. 

In June 2021, Mr Barber had pledged to “continue to support local authorities with a budget of approximately £3 million through the Community Safety Fund”, but the total spend across the Thames Valley Police area is only £2.58m in 2022/23, and lower in succeeding years. 

When pressed on the issue of funding allocation at the Policy Committee, Mr Barber said that he would welcome alternative funding formulae proposals and that he would consider them – the first time he has made such a statement. Reading Labour will explore development of an alternative, but such a statement appears entirely at odds with the Commissioner’s claim to have implemented a three-year funding settlement. 

Speaking after the Committee meeting, Cllr Adele Barnett-Ward, Lead Councillor for Neighbourhoods and Communities, said:

“Reading’s Labour councillors are working to make our town safer, cleaner, and greener but this Tory Police and Crime Commissioner has halved our town’s vital Community Safety Partnership funding whilst doubling the amount he sends to our neighbouring Tory authority.  Whilst our community is grieving victims of knife attacks, he has cut £250,000 from the budget that seeks to tackle youth offending, anti-social behaviour and drug and alcohol-based criminality. 

“Last year there were 1,790 reported rapes across the Thames Valley, but only 112 (6%) of these reports lead to a suspect being charged. Across the UK, two women a week are murdered by a partner or ex-partner. Seven out of ten women have experienced sexual harassment in public place. Despite this, last year the Tory Thames Valley PCC published a Police and Criminal Justice Plan that includes rural crime as one of his five strategic policing priorities but does not include tackling violence against women and girls. 

“This PCC is out of touch with what Reading needs to be safe and to thrive. His priorities are those of sleepy Tory Shires, not our lively, diverse, and aspirational town. Our residents and over-stretched, hardworking local policing team need him to restore our Community Safety funding and give Reading’s concerns the focus we deserve.”  

Cllr Graeme Hoskin, Lead Councillor for Health, Wellbeing and Sport, added:

“I’m calling on the Conservative Police Commissioner to do the right thing and cancel his cuts to vital drug and alcohol treatment services for people referred by the police and the justice system. We know a great deal of crime in Reading is committed by people seeking to fund their opioid or crack cocaine addiction. We also know, through clear evidence, that treatment services reduce re-offending. Cutting a vital service by more than 50% over the next three years is an entirely false economy that will lead to more crime in Reading and more lives ruined.”