It’s not all bad: Britain is becoming safer despite recession

Allister Heath
REMEMBER the view, widespread on some parts of the political spectrum, that recessions and poverty are what cause crime? Well, it’s nonsense. We’re in the middle of a nasty double-dip recession, high levels of unemployment, a national pay cut, falling wealth, still high inflation, an agenda dominated by corporate scandals – and yet crime is actually falling or at the very least stagnating. That is, without doubt, the best news of the week.

I always take government statistics on crime with a bucket of salt. But the murder rate is the most accurate crime statistic – and yesterday’s report from the Office for National Statistics revealed it fell by 14 per cent to 550 homicides in 2011-12, its lowest level since 1983. Overall recorded crime dropped by five per cent to under 4m offences, a 23-year low. Reported violent crime is down seven per cent. The Crime Survey for England and Wales is better for picking up general law breaking but it found that overall crime against adults remained stable.

The one area where the situation worsened, albeit only slightly, was “other theft offences”, which rose by two per cent according to the police’s recorded crime numbers. This was driven principally by rises in theft of unattended property, theft from the person, bicycle theft and shoplifting. But there was a fall of five per cent in domestic burglaries and the crime survey suggests that burglary has remained flat since 2004-05. Households were three times less likely to be burgled compared with 1995. There is still far too much crime, but it is excellent news that the recession and our economic woes haven’t triggered another spree.

IT is an outrage that thousands of immigration officials will go on strike next Thursday, potentially plunging Olympic arrivals into chaos and further tarnishing Britain’s reputation. What makes this selfish action by the Public and Commercial Services union so galling is that just a fifth of the union’s 16,000 members voted, and just 57 per cent of those voted in favour. In other words, only 11 per cent or so of the union’s members have voted to strike. It is wrong that such a small number of people can hold so many hostage.

The government has acted in a cowardly manner by refusing to tighten the law on strikes. Strikes should only be allowed if at least half of those eligible to vote do so and back the industrial action (a rule which could be considered in other areas too). In the mean time, let us hope that the authorities are able to find a way of minimising the damage the strikers will inflict on the Olympics.

Congratulations to the Co-op for getting hold of so many Lloyds branches at such a knock-down price. But many taxpayers (who own a large chunk of Lloyds) will feel ripped off. The rival bid seemed stronger; many believe that the Co-op was chosen to further Nick Clegg’s mutualist agenda.

Yet it isn’t true that the cooperative model works better than the for profit model: many of the banks that failed around the world in the past few years have been mutuals.

The Dunfermline Building Society was bailed out. The disastrously managed cajas in Spain were not-for-profit social institutions.

The US savings and loans crisis in the 1990s was caused by mutuals. The list goes on and on. The only truly successful mutual in the UK today is John Lewis. Virtually every other successful firm is for-profit. There is nothing wrong with mutuals – but they are certainly no panacea.