Business leaders have joined forces with West Midlands Police to fight for more money to help tackle the growing problem of business crime in the region.

By John Revill, Birmingham Post

Break-ins, theft and criminal damage costs each business on average £8,000 per year, according to research by the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

But West Midlands Police has seen its £460 million budget reduced by £27 million. Now the BCCI has agreed to coordinate a lobbying campaign to increase funding for the force.

Chief Constable Paul Scott-Lee attended a meeting with representatives from the CBI, IoD, the Confederation of West Midlands Chambers of Commerce, the Black Country Chamber and from the transport lobby.

Recent figures suggest that one third of companies are burgled each year, over 30 per cent experience damage to vehicles and a quarter suffer structural damage to their premises.

The business leaders are to lobby the Association of British Insurers over the high cost of insurance on lorries

where crime prevention measures are fitted. And they are to encourage haulage companies to paint identifi-cation symbols on the roofs of trucks to help the police track stolen vehicles from the air.

Jerry Blackett, policy director at Birmingham Chamber, said: “The cost of crime to business is crippling and getting worse

“A third of companies are suffering from offences and it is not just the average £8,000 it costs each business in the region, but the damage an unsafe climate creates to the lives of all those people who live and work in an affected area.

“Such instability then feeds on itself, creating a cycle of despair as businesses withdraw and investment dries up.

“West Midlands Police is doing a good job, but it is getting harder and harder to do more with less money.

“Mr Scott-Lee came to our meeting with all his top brass, who seem to be a team of very capable people who are looking to do a good job but are increasingly being strangled by a lack of funds.”

Mr Blackett said the lobbying group would now contact ministers and send written submissions to the Government as well as re approaching Advantage West Midlands for £6 million to fund 13 neighbourhood safety projects which has been turned down by the development agency. And the joint initiative also said that business would help the police in its national pilot scheme to define and measure business crime.

Mr Blackett said: “At present, business crime is not measured in any separate police key performance indicators, and our experience is that if something is measured it does not get done.

“By working together we will be able to have far more influence than campaigning on our own.”

Chris Kelly, chairman of Keltruck, said he would support efforts by the force to reduce lorry crime which has blighted the region in recent years.

He said: “It is totally unacceptable that West Midlands Police has over recent years had its budget reduced.”

A spokeswoman for West Midlands Police said: “In the past, the Government grant was calculated by the Home Office according to the needs of each force.

“If this formula had been used, West Midlands Police would have received £27 million more for 2004/05.

“WMP will continue to lobby the Home Office to try and reinstate proper formula funding for future years to match resources with local needs”.

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Andrew Bentley, MInst SMM
Head of Vehicle Contracts and Marketing