For the second part of our meet the ‘Elections 2021 candidates’ series, we whisk our readers on a journey from the North East of England to the West Midlands, where we meet Unite member Simon Foster – who’s hoping to be the region’s next police and crime commissioner.
Over to Simon who writes:
I’m the Labour Party candidate for West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, and currently work as legal aid solicitor and member of Unite. I represent people at risk of eviction from their homes, those living in poor housing conditions and the homeless. I have devoted my 35 years’ career in the law to serving the people and communities of the West Midlands. I believe passionately, as Unite members do I am sure, in access to justice, equality before the law and the rule of law for all, not just for the few.
I am standing because there has never been a better time to care about policing, crime and our criminal justice system. Conservative governments have treated our police service, essential preventative public services and criminal justice system with contempt. That was counter-productive and a false economy. It left an under-funded and overworked police service, including police staff, many of whom are members of Unite, to pick up the pieces. We have paid the price with rising crime and less justice, safety and security for people and communities.
Covid-19 presents a further challenge for policing. We face an economic crisis that will exacerbate serious levels of pre-existing poverty, inequality and unemployment and as we know – this can create the circumstances in which crime can – for some – become an attractive and viable option – and the vulnerable can become ever more susceptible to becoming victims of crime and criminal exploitation.
Keeping people safe
As a consequence of Conservative government cuts, community policing was dismantled. People and communities want visible, proactive community policing. That means community Police Officers out on the streets, not sat in empty buildings. That is why I have pledged 450 extra community Police Officers – out on the streets – keeping people and communities safe.
The facts in relation to violence against women and girls (VAWG) and domestic abuse are shocking. Behind the numbers are the real lived experience of victims and survivors. The impact of VAWG and domestic abuse is devastating and can have life changing consequences. The tragic death of Sarah Everard has served notice on all of us of the need to redouble our efforts.
Combatting the scourge of VAWG and Domestic Abuse must be a top priority. The Police must use all the powers available to protect victims of Domestic Abuse. I will aim to extend the network of Independent Domestic Violence Advocates. I will ensure victims have suitable and high-quality services to provide them with the help and support they need.
It is often said the first duty of government is to keep its people safe and secure. There has been a flagrant failure on the part of successive governments over the past 10 years to comply with that duty, particularly in relation to children and young people. This has had catastrophic effects on people, their families and communities.
Together with a Labour Metro Mayor, we will put youth workers back in neighbourhoods. I will support and work with schools to reduce exclusions; with local authorities to improve safeguarding; invest in the Violence Reduction Unit to focus on prevention, early intervention and the underlying causes; and ensure joint working between communities, statutory bodies and the third sector. Together, we can prevent violent crime, protect people and save lives.
It is a stark fact there is a greater disproportionality in the number of BAEM people in prisons here in the UK than in the USA. Racial disproportionality within our youth justice system has actually been getting worse in recent years.
Race inequality is a key priority
Tackling racial inequality will be a key priority. That means a target to deliver a police service that is more representative of the communities it serves and a focus on the Public Sector Equality Duty and Equality Impact Assessments so that the elimination of any discrimination, the advancement of equality of opportunity and the fostering of good relations are always at the forefront of what we do.
Labour Police and Crime Commissioners can make a real positive difference to people and communities that have suffered the damaging and corrosive consequences of Tory cuts to our police services, essential preventative public services and criminal justice system.
I will be a People and Communities Police and Crime Commissioner. I will bring Unite’s values of equality, human rights, anti-racism and social justice to the role. Engaging with, listening to and working with people and communities will always be at the forefront of the role for me. But above all else, I will work to deliver Justice, Safety and Security for all of our people and communities of the West Midlands.
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By Simon Foster
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