Express & Star

See what Keir Starmer said about youth crime in the West Midlands on visit to the Black Country

Sir Keir Starmer said more neighbourhood police officers would play a crucial role in tackling youth crime after two 12-year-olds were convicted of a murder in a Wolverhampton park.

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Sir Keir told the Express & Star about his determination to get to grips with youth crime during a visit to the region last night.

He said he was greatly saddened by the murder of Mr Seesahai in the city's East Park.

Sir Keir was in Halesowen, where he met with Labour Party members to promote candidate Alex Ballinger.

He said: "My heart goes out, my thoughts are obviously with those deeply affected by this awful situation, particularly their families and friends, my first response is a human response.

"But we have got to get to grips with the failure of this government to get to grips with crime across our country, that's why we have got a plan in our manifesto on crime, it involves recruiting 13,000 neighbourhood police, so we have got the police that we need across our areas."

Sir Keir's battle bus arrived at Halesowen Town FC's Yeltz Bar, where he met Mr Ballinger who is seeking to unseat Conservative James Morris after 14 years.

Mr Ballinger said Halesowen now had fewer police officers than it did in 2010, which had resulted in a rise in retail crime and anti-social behaviour.

Mr Ballinger said Labour would hope to bring 'youth huts' to the area, giving young people more opportunities.

Sir Keir said improving the finances of local authorities such as Dudley, which this year announced £17 million worth of spending cuts, would be one of his first priorities if he took office.

"One of the first things we need to do is to look at the settlement for our local authorities because they have been starved of cash," he said.

"They have not been able to use the cash that they have got effectively, and many of them are struggling. I know that many voters and residents will be very worried about public services."

Sir Keir said one of the first priorities would be to look at longer-term settlements, enabling councils to plan for the future.

"Almost all council leaders are saying to me the short-term settlement means we can't use the money we've got effectively, we can change that," he said.

He said legislation to prevent no-fault evictions would also relieve pressure on local authorities.

"Too many people who are losing their accommodation are looking to the council to provide accommodation for them, which is a huge drag," he said.

Sir Keir admitted that his plan to impose VAT on school fees was a 'tough decision', but said it was necessary to ease the shortage of teachers in state schools.

"I understand that parents save and work hard to send their kids to private school because they have aspiration for their children," he said.

"But every parent has aspiration for their children whatever school, and in our state secondary schools at the moment, we have got thousands of teachers missing because we have got a recruitment crisis.

"That means in our state secondary schools we don't have enough teachers for basic subjects like maths and if a young person doesn't have a maths teacher at the relevant time, they don't live without that for a year or two, they live without that for the rest of their lives.

"We have taken the decision, it is a tough decision, to take that tax break from private schools, and to use that money directly to pay for 6,500 much-needed teachers in our state secondary schools.

"I believe that every child, wherever they come from, that they should be able to have the best opportunities in life. Every child should feel that success belongs to them."

Sir Keir repeated his pledge to create an extra 40,000 extra doctors' appointments a week.

"We will end the 8am scramble, we will make sure everybody has access to a GP when they need it," he said.

Sir Keir said the extra appointments would be crucial to reducing the NHS waiting list, which stood at almost eight million.

Sir Keir promised that a Labour Government would not increase income tax, National Insurance or VAT.

But Conservatives have pointed out that he has made no such commitment regarding council tax, fuel duties or capital gains tax.

"What we have is a commitment to take our country forward, to lift our living standards, to get our NHS back on its feet and fit for the future, to harness renewable energy, so that we can do that through GB Energy, and get our country moving again.

"That is our message at this election, and I'm really pleased to be here carrying that positive message to every doorstep."