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Bridget Phillipson: "We saw the worst of our society, but also the best"

Bridget PhillipsonWE were fortunate in the north east not to witness the levels of violence and disorder that London and other cities experienced in recent weeks.

People were forced from their homes, businesses were destroyed and whole communities were left terrified.

We saw the worst of our society, but also the best.

The volunteers who pulled together to organise mass clean ups in the worst affected areas.

Tariq Jahan who saw his son was murdered, but spoke out with incredible dignity, determination and courage to calm community tensions.

The violence has left all of us, politicians included, seeking answers about what can be done to prevent it happening again.

We were all appalled by the events, but that’s not enough.

To seek answers isn’t to justify or excuse the violence and criminality.

We cannot afford to let the situation calm only to find ourselves facing the same problems again.

I’m reluctant to be drawn into providing simplistic answers when we don’t even have the full picture of who was involved in the disorder.

There are still many hundreds of people waiting to go through the courts and many who have yet to be arrested.

Across the political spectrum, commentators have sought to use the disorder to validate their pre-existing views.

Some argue that it’s symptomatic of a lack of hope facing our young people, others suggest it’s down to human rights legislation.

Ed Miliband rightly called for an independent commission of inquiry to listen to residents in the affected areas and report on the lessons that need to be learned.

That’s surely the right approach rather than rushing to judgment.

What does appear clear to me is that it would be madness at this point for the government to press ahead with 20% cuts to police budgets.

16,000 police officers were drafted onto the streets of London, the very same number we are set to lose.

Cuts to policing on this scale risk public safety and will inevitably lead to people feeling less safe in their communities.

Constituents already tell me they’re worried that cuts to police numbers will lead to a rise in crime and anti-social behaviour.

It’s hard to argue against that, but the government insist on ploughing on.

They remain adamant that the cuts can be managed.

Only time will tell, but I’m firmly convinced that ministers should think again on police cuts before we see unacceptable rises in crime.

In contrast with all the negative stories about young people rioting, the A Level and GCSE results across Wearside show us what we should all remember: that the vast majority of young people in Sunderland are no different to the older population.

They're hard working, community minded and cause no harm to others. We should celebrate and take pride in their achievements.

All they want is a future that includes a job, a home and happy relationships. I don't think that's too much to ask for.

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