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Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster has vowed to support businesses across the West Midlands, which have been hit by a triple whammy of the cost of living crisis, business crime and rising fraud cases.

Business leaders from across the region came together for Simon Fosters’ annual Business Summit, where he highlighted how firms are struggling financially and what help he could offer.

The PCC pledged that he is committed to ensuring that the business community are supported by West Midlands Police, to prevent, tackle and reduce crime – whether that is action to keep shop workers safe, standing up for retailers or improving the response to fraud.

The UK’s annual loss to fraud is estimated to be £219 billion – more than the UK government spends on healthcare.

The PCC said the combination of business crime, fraud and cost of living pressures had left many in the business sector contemplating their future.

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, Simon Foster, said: “I want to support businesses in any way I can and I am committed to improving the way in which businesses are supported, both by West Midlands Police and also by our government, whether that is action to keep shop workers safe, standing up for retailers or improving the response to fraud. 

“The cost of living crisis has increased sharply and it remains with us. It would appear that the impact will continue to be felt throughout 2024. Inflation is continuing to have an adverse and challenging effect on household and business budgets.”

The PCC said the desperation and pressure this can cause impacts the business community, with nearly three quarters of business owners concerned the current cost of living crisis will adversely affect their business. In particular, two thirds think their customers will no longer be able to afford their products.

The PCC said we are seeing an increased level of vulnerability, with fraudsters striking businesses, while shoplifting is also a major issue.

He added: “Some of these pressures are no doubt as a consequence of the wider pressures being felt by society. There were 365,164 shoplifting offences being recorded nationally by police to June 2023 – that was up 25% on the previous 12 months. The Co-op specifically recorded that they had lost £33 million worth of stock in the first 6 months of 2023.

“We are not only looking at thefts. Businesses and their employees are being affected physically and violently as well.”

Figures from the Institute of Customer Service, revealed 44% of frontline service staff have experienced hostility from customers. It has been widely reported that this increase in abuse, towards front line staff, is linked to customers frustrations linked to the cost of living crisis.

The PCC said: “I am committed to a range of action to support businesses, including establishing the country’s first public health approach to fraud steering group; setting up a wider working group with retailers, to look at the rates of violence experienced by shop workers in their stores; and engaging with businesses and retailers on a one to one basis to advise, help and support them – to prevent, tackle and reduce crime and anti-social behaviour.”

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