Parliamentary recess does not mean MPs are on holiday. Rather, 650 MPs are fortunate to spend a longer period within their respective constituencies and are therefore able to get in and amongst the local issues. The end of recess means that we return armed with ideas, thoughts and views on how national legislation can be shaped to help some of those local issues that impact our constituencies.
This recess has been no different. Over the last two weeks, I have met with police officers, parish councils, farmers, fishermen, youth club volunteers, local business owners and concerned constituents. The range of topics was wide, as you would imagine, but helpful in ensuring that we deliver for South Devon.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the major concerns raised was that of anti-social behaviour, including rampant drug dealing. The end of lockdowns has seen criminals return to their pre-pandemic ways in an all too often blatant manner. Those who try to report these crimes often find the 101 number unanswered or the response from officers non-existent.
This must change. By the end of 2023, there will be more officers in our Southwest force than in 2010. What is more, these officers will be equally distributed between urban and rural settings. To give this context, South Devon is set to receive 46 new officers, 25 trainees and 21 transferee officers. All of this is to be welcomed, but to ensure that it is effective we must ensure they have the facilities and the interaction with local communities to be able to crack down on criminal activity.
First, Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez’s Police Hubs must be brought forward and every community above three thousand people should have a facility from which officers can operate. Second, local contact numbers and emails must be set up so that residents have a local alternative to the ineffective 101 system. Third, every parish and district council should sign up for the Councillor Advocate Scheme.
We can tackle crime, but we must work together to do so.
Tourism Season Arrives
The bright weather over Easter signals the start of tourism season. Not only should this spur on our crime-busting activities, but it is also the start of thousands of visitors arriving in South Devon. Their money spending is welcome and undoubtedly will help to boost our local economy’s recovery.
My hospitality roundtable group meets every few months to discuss challenges faced, best practices and the hopes for the future of South Devon’s tourism economy. The biggest problem faced at present is that of staffing. Businesses across the area are reducing their capacity due to the lack of available staff.
While there is a myriad of reasons why, perhaps the biggest is that hospitality is not seen as a long-term career choice. Unlike our European friends who covet hospitality jobs, we all too often view them as seasonal. This could be addressed by working with schools, academies and colleges to show that the lifestyle, salary and opportunity within hospitality are huge.
Certainly, our hospitality roundtable group is working to address this shortfall and change the mindset toward this noble, interesting and fun sector.
Whether it be tackling crime or supporting our hospitality sector, progress is being made. Through working together, we can go even further.