Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper made a whistle-stop visit to Rugby on Thursday.
She spoke with local business people and retailers on the subject of crime in the town centre and how to tackle it.
She also met with town rangers before being shown round the town’s CCTV control centre.
Afterwards she spoke to the Rugby Advertiser about how important a safe and clean town centre is to the future prosperity of Rugby what a Labour government would do if they were elected this May.
What was the purpose of today’s visit to Rugby?
“Claire [Edwards, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Rugby and Bulkington] asked me to come to meet with some of the local business people in the town centre to hear about the work that they’ve done and the real focus on keeping the town clean and safe, and the importance of that safety issue and the importance of tackling crime.
“We had quite a long discussion about crime and policing in the town and also to discuss how important it is to the local economy and the importance of having a vibrant town centre for Rugby which is obviously something Claire has been doing a lot of work on.”
What were your first impressions of Rugby? Have you been here before?
“I have been to Rugby but not for a long time. It was great to come back and see the work, and what it shows is you’ve got local business people working in partnership with the rangers, with the police, and so on, it can make a really important difference but there was quite a lot of concern with what’s happening with further planned cuts to neighbourhood police officers, the scale of cuts to policing. So one of the things we were talking about was our view, the Labour view, is we should abolish police and crime commissioners and put that money back into front line policing and that would stop the planned cuts for neighbourhood policing, the planned cuts of a thousand police officers due to go across the country next year, well I think that is a real concern for people if we abolished the police and crime commissioners you’d have £50 million to put back into policing and other measures that could help prevent those police officers being lost.”
Do you think that would have the knock-on effect of reviving the town and helping to improve the town generally?
“Interestingly, what a lot of shopowners and the business people were saying is that it’s really important if you want to get people to come into the town centre for it to feel clean and safe so a lot of what they’ve set up, the CCTV system, are really good, and we’ve been having a look at the CCTV system and the way that is operating. They’ve obviously got the rangers and so they work closely together, the CCTV, the rangers, the shopkeepers all having the same radio system and what they decided was that if people don’t feel safe in the town centre, if they don’t feel the centre is clean then they won’t come into the town centre, and so I thought that was really striking, the focus on keeping it clean and safe which makes a big difference to trade as well. Obviously there were a lot of issues and we discussed other things as well but I think it’s important for people to realise that having good policing in place, having places which feel safe, actually can help the local economy as well.”
Will that stop the trend for trade being pushed out to out-of-town retail park?
“I think people want to feel like they’ve got a vibrant town centre and that’s what Rugby is all about, it’s what people want to feel as a local community, a strong centre, and I think it is a concern the way the Government has changed the planning rules and it doesn’t really support the town centres as much as it should. We’ve argued that there should be business rate cuts for small businesses in town centres, that that actually is a good way of regenerating and supporting the town centres that we all want to be able to enjoy.”
Can there be a case of too much CCTV or is it something there is maybe not even enough of?
“You’ve got to have proper safeguards to make sure the system isn’t misused, to make sure there is proper protection for people’s privacy but I’ve also seen lots of examples where it has helped stop criminals, it’s helped stop crime and helped keep people safe and I think people want the reassurance that someone is shoplifting they are not going to come back because actually they are going to be picked up fast enough.
“There have been examples where CCTV has helped to catch criminals. I think there have got to be strong safeguards and its got to be properly done but I think there is a strong role for CCTV to play.”
Were you impressed by the CCTV system?
“They have got a really good set up in Rugby and while we were there they were talking about a potential shoplifter being identified and the sorts of cases that come in and in the end if that helps support the local economy and keeps the town centre feeling safe then it shows what an important job they’re doing.”