Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has urged communities in Derbyshire to work together to set aside differences after it was revealed there had been a rise in hate crime across the county following the Brexit vote.
Speaking during a visit to Belper on Saturday in which he toured the town and spoke to locals about their concerns, Mr Corbyn was asked about a Freedom of Information request by this newspaper.
We revealed at the beginning of January how there had been 678 hate crimes reported from the day the UK voted to leave the European Union (June 23, 2016) and June 22, 2017, compared with 563 in the previous year between June 23, 2015 and June 22, 2016.
Mr Corbyn said: “There was certainly a spike in hate crime straight after the Brexit vote all over the country. It is appalling. We have to recognise and support and work with each other to make communities stronger. Blaming each other doesn’t solve problems. Working together gives us the chance to deal with them.”
The Labour leader went on to praise Derbyshire police officers for going to the aid of concert-goers caught up in last summer’s terrorist attack in Manchester during his visit to the county which was arranged to learn about policing pressures.
However, he said he was concerned that forces wouldn’t be able to respond effectively to such high-profile incidents and violent crime in the future without better funding.
Speaking to the Belper News, Mr Corbyn said: “When the terrible events happened in Manchester last summer Derbyshire officers went to help and support. That’s how it should be - but they obviously need to be properly funded in order to be able to do it.
“We would fund the police forces. What we have in Derbyshire is very hard working police officers and PCSOs. They do a great job.
“The problem is that Derbyshire has been under-funded and we cannot go on forever paying for police forces by raising the local precept. It’s got to be paid for nationally and centrally. Derbyshire is obviously part of the whole country.”
Mr Corbyn walked along Belper’s King Street on Saturday to meet surprised shoppers with Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Hardyal Dhindsa.
He met members of the town’s Save the NHS group and members of Belper and Duffield Labour party and also visited the town’s new Derbyshire Wildlife Trust shop before stopping outside the Memorial Gardens where he was interviewed by waiting members of the press.
Twelve-year-old Daisy Wakefield asked Mr Corbyn about education on behalf of the Belper News.
She took the chance to ask the Labour leader if he would ban homework and what he thought of the pressures on young people generated through SATs exams.
Mr Corbyn said: “I wouldn’t get rid of homework. I am concerned about league tables and pressures on students of all ages. I want much more ability for teachers to develop their own ideas in the classroom and inspire children. I think we obsess too much with SATs tests.”