Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner -  
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PCC bids for 4.571m emergency bail out for Bedfordshire 'to save children's lives' from gang, gun and knife crime
Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, has submitted an emergency bid of £4.571m to the Government’s Special Policing Grant fund to continue to pay for the county’s fight against gang, gun and knife crime in a bid to save young lives, it was revealed last night (9 October 2018).

Bedfordshire Police’s Inspector, for police watchdog - Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) - who rules on applications for a discretionary special grant to cover police spending outside ‘business as usual’, revealed the bid to the county’s Police and Crime Panel.

Commissioner Holloway is calling on the Government to cover the unprecedented spend on the fight against the spread of gangs, knife carrying and gun use and supply by the cash-strapped force over the past two years and that anticipated in the current financial year,

“We have seen a 16-year-old stabbed to death on the streets of Bedford on a Sunday this September and seven young people ending up in hospital in Luton on the same evening with knife wounds after a fight involving 14, 15 and 16-year-olds. This week I’ve personally been present when a single weapons amnesty bin was opened at Halsey Road in Bedford which was found to contain four guns, a serrated zombie knife of over two feet in length, a vast Malaysian machete, a ceremonial sword and a selection of machetes, cleavers and kitchen knives, adding up to 109 bladed weapons in total.

"Nobody can tell me that we are not fighting an unprecedented threat and, given the Force’s well-documented financial stresses, I need extra help with the budget to save children’s lives and this is no exaggeration whatever,” said the Commissioner.

“As a result I have taken the unprecedented step of submitting a bid for £4.571m to the Home Office and fully evidencing the expense of all the work of Bedfordshire Police’s Op Boson Team, who lead the fight against knife, gun and gang crime across the county, over the past two years and the spend that is anticipated this year. This sum does not even include the amount which has had to be spent on extra Armed Policing Unit vehicles and the cost of manning and running them.

“In my view, this is precisely why the Government increased the Policing Special Grant Fund, to cover financial pressures on policing which lie outside the ordinary to £93m for this financial year. Quite rightly, I believe, greater flexibility is being shown than ever before in the way grants are handled. In the past, only the cost of a single event could be claimed back but, as HMI Parr confirmed to the Police and Crime Panel, the Home Office has allowed the cost of an accumulation of events to be claimed this year with one key example being the bid of Thames Valley Police to cover the disproportionate level of costs which fell on that force from the Royal Wedding and Trump visit this summer so far.

“Bedfordshire Police has provided evidence to the Home Office to back my bid to prove that the money we've already had to spend on fighting gang, knife and gun crime in the past two years, and this year too, lies outside business as usual for us. Although the mass of police activity and that of my office, to fund interventions and training in schools and of those who work with young people has held the rise in knife crime year on year to lower levels than elsewhere, recent events and the deaths of two young men in Luton in May prove that we have to fight on and to do that at the same level we need this emergency help,” said PCC Holloway.

Policing Minister, Nick Hurd, has confirmed that Mrs Holloway has submitted a bid to the emergency Special Grant fund in the House of Commons (in September 2018 in response to a question from South West Bedfordshire MP, Andrew Selous.)

The police watchdog, HMICFRS, oversees all applications for a Policing Special Grant and makes recommendations to the Home Office regarding payments. HMI Parr will oversee the application from Bedfordshire Police.

“I have been told that we can expect an answer in November and, for the sake of the children of Bedfordshire in each and every community across the entire county, I trust that I will be given the budget to continue this fight to protect them and divert and disrupt them from gangs, gun use and knife carrying,” said the PCC.

The Panel, led by politically independent Chair, Paul Cain, and comprising cross-party councillors from all three of Bedfordshire’s unitary authorities -  Bedford and Luton Borough Councils and Central Bedfordshire Council - voiced their approval of the bid and asked the Chief Constable of Bedfordshire, Jon Boutcher, and the PCC to detail work being done by them to halt the spread of gang crime and knife use.

Mr Boutcher described the work of the Force in Bedfordshire’s schools, including his own visits each month and that of Chief Insp. Juliette Everett who leads the fight against knife crime, including liaison with retailers to ensure responsible sales of knives. He detailed the very regular meetings between partners in local authorities and police to identify and produce plans around those believed to be most at risk of gang violence. Mr Boutcher described a recent panel held with young people and community members from gang hotspots and pointed to the success in Glasgow of involving the Health Service in work to counter youth violence.

The PCC described a current bid from her office to the Government’s new Early Intervention Fund - now standing at £22m thanks to a doubling of funds by the National Lottery - to pay for the specialist service Red Thread and paramedics to intervene in Bedfordshire in the “teachable moment” when young people need healthcare for gang related injuries. She told the Panel that Red Thread has proved highly successful in diverting young people away from violence in this way in the major trauma units of London and that her team has introduced them to local A&E services and already commissioned a scoping exercise to roll out the service locally.

She also described her funding of the independent specialist Violence and Vulnerability Team from the Home Office to draw up so-called Local Area Process Reviews combining all the knowledge held about gang membership and knife carriers from youth offending services, council departments and police to map the problem across Bedfordshire and help produce a strategy for the whole of Bedfordshire, 

The PCC has also commissioned a hard-hitting drama about the dangers of gangs to be presented to all pupils of 11 and over in the county’s schools this year and the training of 2,000 pupils and as many teachers and youth workers to recognise the signs of gang membership and vulnerability. Commissioner Holloway described the work her office runs and funds with families of those who have died as a result of youth violence in the county to pass on their direct experience, such as Channitta Lendore in Bedford and the youth workers behind the ‘Right to Shine’ youth clubs for young people in Lewsey Farm and a recording studio for older teenagers and those in their early 20s, in Luton.

“There is simply no way that the Chief Constable and I could be accused of sitting on our hands where our young people and gang, gun and knife crime are concerned. This danger is one of the top priorities of both the Force and my office and we are doing all possible to help communities, within our budgets, to work with police to get on top of this modern menace and save young people and to bring home available Government funds to Bedfordshire,” she said.

“All this costs money and the fight against serious youth violence ferociously absorbs resources: we need this particular emergency assistance from the Policing Special Grant to build on this foundation. Quite simply, we need this money,” she told the Police and Crime Panel.