Keeping our streets safe is one my key priorities. A big part of that is ensuing we have enough bobbies on the beat.
That's why I've been campaigning in Parliament to get more funding for Kent Police. Last year this enabled our Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott to recruit 200 more officers.
This year we had another battle over money. Kent Police was facing huge pressure on increased pension costs. I organised a letter from Kent MPs to the Chancellor and the Policing Minister, setting out our serious concerns.
The Government listened and agreed a £4 million increase in funding for Kent Police, along with a further grant of £3.4 million to help with the pensions. What's more, Matthew Scott's spending power was boosted by up to £17 million. I fully support his plan to use this extra cash to recruit another 180 officers. I will push hard for as many as possible to be deployed here in Dover and Deal.
More officers will help keep our streets safe – and boost the fight against drugs. We face a huge challenge. Drug deaths have doubled in Kent in the last three years.
My first priority has been to take the fight to the drug dealers. An important milestone in this campaign has been securing tougher sentences under Robert's Law – in memory of Deal's Robert Fraser who was killed by the dangerous new drug fentanyl. Last month three drug dealers were handed jail terms totalling 43 years – the first convictions for fentanyl supply since Robert's Law was introduced. We needed our justice system to recognise this particularly evil type of drug dealing. Now the culprits face decades behind bars.
We must also be relentless in our fight against London gangs who recruit and exploit youngsters here in Dover and Deal. There are currently 48 so-called "county lines" gang operations in Kent. I've met with East Kent's police chiefs, setting out my concerns over reports dealers were targeting children at our schools. As a result, the police have been taking firm action – with the arrest, charge, and removal of a number of county lines drug dealers from our community.
Yet it's not just Kent Police who are making a difference. The St Giles Trust is a charity which trains teenagers who had already overcome disadvantages to help other troubled youngsters. They have a proven track record in helping local children involved in county lines get away from the gangs. Yet their funding was uncertain, so I asked Matthew Scott to help – and he acted to ensure the St Giles Trust have funding until April.
I am now battling to ensure this funding is secured for the long-term. We must do all we can to stop young people in Dover and Deal falling into the dark world of drugs and crime. I will continue to fight for more funding and more officers in our area – so we can make our streets safer and more secure.