Home Secretary Theresa May visited Rugby last Friday – and lavished praise on efforts being made to cut crime.
The cabinet member - one of the most senior politicians in the country - was shown around the offices of town centre management company Rugby First, including the headquarters of the town’s CCTV network.
And she believes other parts of the country can learn from Rugby’s lead.
Mrs May said: “A number of other places have been looking at what’s being done here.
“In some towns, you’ll maybe have a pubwatch and some sort of shopwatch scheme – but being able to bring it together with the rangers and CCTV is very good. From what I’ve seen today, it’s a very good model.”
Mrs May was particularly impressed by the quality of the equipment used, both by CCTV operators and by the Rugby Rangers, which are employed by Rugby First to patrol the town.
She said: “They’re always looking to make sure the technology is good – having the body-worn videos is very good. It not only enhances your ability to collect evidence as it’s happening, but also it’s good for the safety of the rangers. If it’s being recorded, people can’t argue.”
And Mrs May was unconcerned by any suggestion that there could be too many cameras operating in the town.
She said: “There’s a balance. For as long as what you’re doing is contributing to public protection, a reduction in crime and public safety, I think people are happy to see that being done. One of the things here that has been significant has been the increase in the number of CCTV cameras around the town. But the key thing is people will know their town is being protected in that way, so people don’t feel threatened in any way – unless of course they’re up to no good.
“We’re not in the business of watching every single thing that everyone does at any one point in time. What’s important is that it’s what people want.”
Rugby MP Mark Pawsey had invited Mrs May to visit his constituency – and was delighted that she accepted.
He said: “It’s great to have the Home Secretary in the constituency and I’m very proud to shout about the good things that Rugby’s doing and the work the BID are doing in crime prevention is something we need to shout about. Sometimes as an MP you assume that what’s going on in your constituency is happening around the country, when of course there are different things happening in different places. It’s become apparent to me that what we’ve got here is pretty special and at the cutting-edge and it’s very important for the Home Secretary to see what we are doing.”
Another issue that comes under Theresa May’s responsibility is immigration – something which appears to be increasingly relevant to Rugby.
The Warwickshire Observatory, which analyses statistics relating to the county, published figures last month showing the extent of immigration from Eastern European countries.
They showed that, of all the areas in the county, Rugby borough has the most residents who were born in one of the countries that joined the EU in the past ten years. The 2011 census showed that 3,451 people in Rugby were born in an ‘EU Accession’ country, with 2,344 of those coming from Poland. The highest concentration is in Brownsover.
But Mrs May insisted that the Government has a grip on the issue. She said: “The government is trying to bring control into the immigration system. We are looking at those who are coming from the EU to ensure that people are coming here who want to contribute – contribute to our economy, contribute to our society. What is important is that people are able to integrate and become part of the local community. From what I hear, Rugby has been able to do that.
“If you’re looking at people who are coming from the European Union, there are particular rules around how free movement can be operated. We’ve taken some steps as a government overall to tighten up on our implementation of the rules to make sure that we’re taking action where people are coming here not to contribute to our society, not to contribute to our economy.
“So, if somebody is found begging and rough-sleeping and is removed from the country, we’ve taken powers to ensure they can’t come back in for a year. We’ve been changing rules to access to benefits for people inside the European Union. There’s a right to work, a right to come and contribute, but we don’t want to see benefits becoming a ‘pull’ factor.”
Mrs May referred to a study which found that, at times of recession, 23 British people are ‘displaced’ from their job for every 100 people who migrate to the UK.
The figures have been challenged by various journalists, who have claimed that the Government has exaggerated the problem. But Mrs May maintains the statistics are accurate, and that the Government is doing all it can to get people into work.
She said: “Crucially, we’ve seen unemployment go down across the country – you’ve seen good employment levels here in Rugby. That’s because of the difficult decisions we’ve taken, because of the long-term economic plan we have as a government, because we are working to encourage business – all of this is about creating the right environment for business.
“On the other side, we need to ensure people who are unemployed are given support to get back into the workplace. That’s what the work programme is doing - more targeted help and support for people to help them get back into the workplace.”