The West Country Debate May: Crime, a by-election and the cost of living

  • Watch May's edition of The West Country Debate

It has been another tough week for the government with inflation reaching a 40-year high, a tricky upcoming by-election in Devon and confirmation from the Metropolitan Police that more than 120 fines have been handed out as part of their partygate investigation.

The prime minister had been hoping to focus his ministers on crime, instructing them to prioritise three things - "crime, crime, crime". But how much do recent events in Westminster undermine that strategy?

On The West Country Debate panel this month:


As Cody Ackland from Plymouth was handed a life sentence for the murder of 18 year-old Bobbi-Anne Mcleod, some have been questioning just how safe are our streets?

Karin Smyth MP pointed out that while the prime minister has been briefing ministers to focus on crime, nothing was mentioned about it in the Queen's speech.

Ms Smyth said: "The government put forward their policy in the Queen's speech but there was nothing there about making our communities safer. The statistics are really quite shocking. Levels of crime are already back up to pre-pandemic levels."

Danny Kruger MP said: "There has been a crime bill going through parliament which will help investment in frontline policing and give police greater powers to lock up criminals. But what has to happen is root and branch investment in front line policing and that's what this government is bringing in."

Devon by-election

In 5 weeks time voters in Tiverton and Honiton will head to the polls to pick their new MP.

They have had no representative in Westminster since the end of April when Tory MP Neil Parish resigned after admitting watching porn in parliament.

At the last election he had a majority of 24,000 with Labour and the Lib Dems in a distant 2nd and 3rd place respectively.

Cllr Tessa Munt said: "The government has been absolutely pathetic about letting sewage going into rivers and streams.

"There are so many things that are so wrong that absolutely should be dealt with, and this government is not facing up to it. They're not taking into account what is happening in rural England but we (the Lib Dems) do."

Danny Kruger MP said: "We need to fight very hard to keep the Tiverton and Honiton seat. They are always up for grabs. We often see big upsets in between elections".

Cost of living

The cost of living crisis is likely to be a dominant theme in the Tiverton and Honiton by-election.

The latest inflation figures, which measure the changes of prices we all pay for every day things like food and clothes, make for grim reading.

Last year consumer prices were increasing by 1.5% a year but as the economy unlocked inflation took off and it reached 9% in April - the highest level for 40 years.

Danny Kruger MP when asked if the government had done enough to help people affected by the rise in the cost of living said: "It is certainly not enough. The price of food is absolutely crippling as well as other costs around fuel, energy and  petrol. We are experiencing a real crisis. The answer to it is going to be complicated. We are facing an inflation crisis."

Mr Kruger added: "I can't say when (action will be taken). But I expect there will be action quickly."

Karin Smyth MP argued the government was only considering acting on Labour's ideas, and Tessa Munt urged the government to help people who are struggling the most.