THE number of domestic abuse victims in West Berkshire has been “reducing gradually” in recent months despite concerns about a spike in incidents during lockdown.

That’s according to councillor Howard Woollaston, executive member for public health, who insists West Berkshire has bucked the stark trend seen in countries around the world.

Stark figures published by the council, show that in West Berkshire 406 domestic abuse incidents were reported to Thames Valley Police between April and June, which is around 135 a month.

That’s an increase of 38.6 per cent compared to the same period in 2019, when 293 incidents were reported.

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Over that three-month period in 2020, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline received 74 calls from West Berkshire – that’s six more than in the same period of 2019.

But on September 10, Cllr Woollaston told a full council meeting that the number of victims in West Berkshire is falling and “a very small percentage” of calls to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline come from the district.

He also said that the Conservative-run council has been able to provide refuge to domestic abuse victims throughout the pandemic and no woman has been turned away due to a lack of capacity.

He said: “In July, across the South East the National Domestic Abuse Helpline received 2,227 calls.

“West Berkshire accounted for just 2.2 per cent of these – that’s 48 calls.

“This is the lowest recorded number for West Berkshire since April 2020.”

He added: “Our local domestic abuse service has had no – I stress no – shortfall in refuge spaces.

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“They continue to remain available. There’s not been a time since lockdown was announced when any woman or families have been turned away due to capacity issues.

“With this in mind, there is not an identified need for the council to increase its number of refuge spaces at present.”

Cllr Martha Vickers (Liberal Democrat) said: : “You started your answer by saying numbers were low in West Berkshire, but the way refuge works is we accept people from another authority and they accept our women fleeing, because people leave their area to keep themselves safe.”

Cllr Woollaston said “that can be the case”.

He added: “I was at a meeting of the Domestic Abuse Strategy Group yesterday morning.

“They tell me, quite clearly, that the number of people suffering domestic abuse has actually been reducing gradually over the course of the last few months. “