The Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Northumbria, Kim McGuinness, has been criticised for the force's failure to respond to rural crime
Residents of the small Northumberland village of Belford are furious with McGuinness over the lack of action following a break-in at a community-owned shop which saw thieves take off with the shop's takings and money intended for charity. Guy Renner Thompson, who represents Belford on Northumberland County Council, has written to the PCC who has failed to address residents' concerns.
The Belford Community Shop was bought by residents of the village after the local branch of Spar closed in 2016. The shop is run by volunteers and Belford Community Shop raises money to pay grants to other local organisations and subsidise a gym for community use.
In November 2023 the Belford community were shocked when the Community Shop was broken into, with property damaged and cash stolen. Money was taken from the tills and the safe was broken into, as well as charity boxes filled with cash. Further crimes were committed including damage to the premises, but despite the police being made aware the same day, no one from the police has taken any action..
Local councillor and Conservative candidate for North East Mayor Guy Renner-Thompson has written to his Labour rival and current Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness demanding Northumbria Police open a full and proper investigation into the Belford Community Shop burglary and apologise for the lack of action so far. He said:
"We're one month after the burglary and still nobody has been the scene of this terrible crime.
"It's not the fault of the local community police who do great work but it's an organisational failure that nobody has been asked to attend the shop.
"A similar incident in Coggeshall in Essex had police officers attend and investigate. Essex Police has 192 police officers per 100,000 people. Northumbria Police has 247 police offers per 100,000 people, the 8th highest police officer to population ratio in the Country.
"Why should we receive a lesser service in Northumberland than Essex when Northumbria has more cops?"
Northumbria Police has benefitted from an additional 705 officers since 2019 as part of the Conservatives' pledge to increase officer numbers by 20,000 nationally. Every year that Kim McGuinness has been Police and Crime Commissioner the Northumbria Police precept has hit residents' council tax bills. Despite this, crime rates across the force area have increased and confidence in Northumbria Police has gone down.
Councillor Guy Renner-Thompson is the Conservative candidate to become Mayor of the North East Combined Authority, the new role introduced to lead the LA7 combined group of North East councils. Kim McGuinness has been declared as Labour's candidate, while many Labour supporters are backing Corbynista Jamie Driscoll.