News : Teesdale and Weardale Farm Watch Bids to Get VAT Exemption
May 27, 2014 -- A rural crime scheme is hoping to get a tax break to help their funds go further.
Teesdale and Weardale Farm Watch, which is celebrating its 25 anniversary this year, is hoping to get in on a bid by mountain rescue teams to get VAT exemption.
Farm Watch treasurer Peter Atkinson said: "We haven’t got VAT exemption which we’re seeking to get on the back of the search and rescue lads. The only thing they’re doing that we’re not is saving lives. So we’re going to see if we can get that.
"If we can then we would have the money to buy another five radios. It would be great not to have to pay it."
The scheme now has around £20,000 of equipment, mostly radios. Last year it was given £4,975 from Weardale Action Partnership and £3,600 from Teesdale Action Partnership to buy new digital radios. Other donations from a letter writing campaign raised £430 while a raffle organised by Barnard Castle Police raised £150.
A total of 28 digital radios have been bought, which are replacing the old communications system.
Mr Atkinson added: "The last time I was out I had a wonderful night. I was in one of the worst places for signal and it couldn’t have been clearer."
The scheme was founded in 1989 by Kinninvie farmers Peter and Gladys Stubbs following a spate of minor crimes.
Since then it has expanded its membership to around 800 people and runs operations which span six police areas in the North of England – Durham, North Yorkshire, Cumbria, Cleveland, Northumbria and Lancashire.
Mr Stubbs said: "We’re still here and no doubt we’re one of the best Farm Watches in the country and that’s down to the good folk going out on the night and working together. That’s the heart of an organisation like this – everyone helping each other.
"Farm Watch is going from strength to strength. Everyone works hard and works together helping each other. It’s all down to good old-fashioned values."
Sgt Simon Rogers, from Barnard Castle Police, told the Farm Watch annual meeting that crime had not increased last year.
He said: "Last year Durham crime increased but ours has stayed the same for a number of reasons. I think that Farm Watch does play a role in keeping crime down. The number of officers has been cut down and I don’t think they’ll be increasing in the next few years so I think Farm Watch will continue to play a role in this area.
"Durham Police is 100 per cent behind it. Our chief comes from farming stock and he’s fully behind it and will be speaking at the 25th anniversary event.
"Most forces are now starting to wake up to what we have been doing for years and the impact it has had on rural crime and travelling criminals. We know criminals have no borders and will travel between Durham and Cumbria and Yorkshire, which is why in my view Farm Watch is so valuable. I hope it keeps going from strength to strength for the next 25 years."
Sgt Rogers said in the first four months of the year the only significant rural crimes were the theft of a quad bike from Barningham, a Mitsubishi vehicle from Forest in Teesdale, a saddle and a strimmer from Staindrop, a trailer from Bowes and a generator and food from Cross Lanes.
He added that metal thefts, including those of catalytic converters, diesel thefts and stone thefts had all dropped significantly with no reported incidents of stone or catalytic converters thefts this year.
Following complaints from farmers about a lack of knowledge about rural crime, Sgt Rogers said staff taking calls for Durham Police were being briefed. One farmer said: "It’s hard work and it’s putting people off. Some of their questioning makes you feel like the criminal."
Sgt Rogers said: "People used to ring in and were getting connected to people who didn’t know what a poacher was. It really was as simple as that. Inspector Tuck briefs the new communications staff about rural crime and terminology so we’re trying to put things in place to improve that."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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