Theresa May quizzed about ‘unsafe Gosport’ by Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs as he blasts police cuts

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London, on March 6. Picture: House of Commons/PA Wire
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London, on March 6. Picture: House of Commons/PA Wire

LABOUR leader Jeremy Corbyn has told the prime minister a Gosport man wrote to him and said: ‘It's become a really unsafe town.’

Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions today in the House of Commons, the opposition leader and Theresa May clashed over knife crime and street violence.

Mr Corbyn said: ‘Violent crime has doubled under the Tories' watch and I've had a letter from Mike in Gosport where he says, yes it's important he's got something to say: "The crime rate has run out of control because there is no police presence", adding: "It's become a really unsafe town to live in".

‘I think Mike speaks for millions of people around the country.

‘When are towns such as Gosport and others going to get the resources they need for the safer neighbourhood teams they need to tackle rising violence and crime and provide the intelligence from which arrests can be made against those who have committed those crimes?’

It comes as the police front counter service reopened at Gosport Town Hall after months of closure. The town’s police station has been shut, with neighbourhood officers now based in the council offices.

Response and patrol officers reacting to 999 calls are at Fareham Reach, in Fareham Road – which is in Gosport.

The town’s neighbourhood team currently has 13 officers and 15 PCSOs, plus an inspector and chief inspector.

But Mrs May said: ‘As we make more resources available to police they're available to forces across the country, including of course Hampshire.

'Of course we look at the powers and the resources that the police need that's why we're not just putting more resources in but increasing the powers that the police have.'

The Conservative leader also said the government had introduced knife crime prevention orders.

She pointed out Mr Corbyn voted against increasing police powers to deal with people carrying knives and against legislation to toughen up knife crime sentencing powers for second offenders.

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage has hit out at Mr Corbyn’s intervention.

She said: ‘Police in Gosport work extremely hard to keep our community safe and tackle crime. I live there and have never felt unsafe. 

I doubt Jeremy Corbyn could find it on a map.

‘He voted against changing the law so anyone caught carrying a knife for a 2nd time would face a custodial sentence.

‘He also voted against the recent increase in police funding of up to £970m that will see an additional 210 police officers in Hampshire.’

Police funding in Gosport will increase – largely in part due to a council tax hike brought in by police and crime commissioner Michael Lane.

Robbery more than doubled to 53 incidents in the 12 months to September 2018, up from 24 in the same period in 2010.

In the same period, violence without injury went up to 1,023 from 597 in 2010, wile violence with injury increased to 1,013 up from 723 in 2010.

Chief Inspector Mark Lewis said there has been an overall 5.3 per cent drop in crime between January last year and this year.

But official crime statistics show 7,188 crimes took place in the 12 months to September last year, up from 6,482 in 2010.

In that period Hampshire police have lost 1,000 officers and £90m of funding.

Ch Insp Lewis said: ‘The Neighbourhood Policing Team works with partner agencies to undertake activities across the town and regularly publicises these via Twitter and Facebook and through local media.

‘One such example of the partnership working the officers in the town undertake is the closure orders that have been obtained on a number of premises following reports of persistent drug use or anti-social behaviour.’

He added that neighbourhood officers are supported by response and patrol, investigations, roads policing, and police staff.

Roads policing are based in Havant, while detectives previously based in Gosport are now based in Portsmouth. All investigations teams will move from Fratton station to the new investigation centre off Airport Service Road later this year.

Pensioner Stuart Foster, 69, has lived in Bridgemary for more than 25 years.

The former civil servant said: ‘To say unsafe – I’ve got no idea where he’s coming from.

‘I don’t feel unsafe. I’d be quite happy to go for a walk around my area – I’d be happy to go for a walk anywhere in Gosport or Fareham at anytime.

‘It doesn’t tie in with my experience.’

Mr Foster, a member of Hampshire police’s independent advisory group, added: ‘I don’t think Gosport is an unsafe place to live.’