We are the 20%

Cuts are Criminal.  That’s the slogan which is being used by the Police Federation of England and Wales in its campaign against Government cuts and the Winsor Report.  There is a figure which appears on the campaign.  It is 20%.  In fact, not just in the Federation campaign but throughout the press also, there is talk of 20% cuts to Policing.

Where did this figure come from?  What does it mean?  Well, the first question is easy to answer.  The figure of 20% came directly from the Government itself.  On 13th December 2010 The Minister of State for Justice announced the government grant settlement for all 43 Police forces in England and Wales.  Previously, in October that year the Government Spending Review had identified specific savings required from various Home Office departments.  Policing had to make a projected real cut of 20%. (HM Treasury, Spending Review 2010. TSO,2010. p10 – for those who need to see with their own two eyes!)

As each Police force receives a different amount of grant, it is best to explain on a broad basis rather than show figures for one force, which inevitably wont apply to the next force. Suffice to say that when the grants were announced in December 2010 it was the end of almost 35 years of ‘favoured funding’ (Dr Timothy Brain, Universities’ Police Science institute, Police Funding 2011-12. Police Briefing Paper no. 1) with the intention of a 20% cut in ‘real’ terms by 2014-15.

The second question, ‘what does it mean?’ is a little more tricky to answer at the moment. The intention was, apparently, that the cuts would be precipitated by the change in grants but that reorganisation and streamlining would achieve the full 20% by 2014-15.  It was further anticipated that numbers on the ‘front line’ (something which is more difficult to define than the origin of the 20%!) would not be affected by the cuts and indeed some hopeful souls thought that perhaps more Police officers would be freed up to become visible front line officers.

Now, I know if you are a serving or retired Police officer reading this you are either falling off your chair laughing or trying to stop the steam escaping from your ears right about now.  Unless you are a higher ranking Police officer reading this.  In which case you might be feeling a little uncomfortable around the collar, or you might be wondering what the point of this little piece is.

In their July 2011 report ‘Adapting to Austerity’ Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies (HMIC) gave figures on the police workforce as follows –

March 2010 – 243,888

March 2011 – 232,720

Sept 2011 – 224,883

Given that these figures cover ALL police staff and that in March 2010 68.1% of all staff were actually classed as ‘front line’ by HMIC, in the 12 months between March 2010 and March 2011 the frontline had lost 7,994 officers. By September 2011 the police workforce was down by 19,000.  (FactCheck with Cathy Newman)

In their report HMIC base their predictions for the future on each individual Force’s own prediction for budget, cuts, manpower etc.  Even HMIC themselves admit that this is an unreliable and flawed system, given that each Force is subject to change and even failure of their individual fiscal plans.

In October 2010 Alan Travis reported for the Guardian newspaper that whilst HMIC had said any cuts beyond 12% would hit frontline services, Osborne had decided to change the definition of frontline services so as to negate any adverse effects.

In February 2012, the Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper said “new figures from HMIC show that 9 out of 10 of the total police officers lost in the first year were from front line jobs.”

I cannot quote figures or politicians to tell you what the outcome will be by 2015 but I hope I have shown you enough to see the trend which is becoming clear.  It is exactly what the Federation and Police officers up and down the country said would happen.  There will be fewer and fewer ‘front line’ officers.  That means when someone needs the Police, there will be fewer of them to answer that call for help, they will be further away, they will be more tired.  Ultimately, they will be less able.

The tragedy is not the argument over the 20% – is it or isn’t it? what will it affect? what won’t it effect? The tragedy is not the argument over who has the right calculations and who is spinning the facts to their advantage?  No.  The tragedy is that hard-working, honest men and women who all simply want to make a difference -to make things a little bit better, a little bit safer- those men and women are going to be so over stretched that they will look, by 2015 as if they are not fit for purpose any more.  Then the doors will open properly for the private police force suppliers waiting in the wings.  Yes, that will be companies whose shareholders include Tory donors and in some cases even Tory ministers.

As if that wasn’t enough, there’s an even bigger tragedy which follows if we can’t stop the private companies.  A tragedy which affects every single man, woman and child in this country because it doesn’t matter how much money you’ve got, there are times when only the Police will do.  If you are unlucky enough to find yourself scared and in need of protection (it happens, every day) you will call the police and you will beg them to come and protect you.  What if they’re not there any more? What if a ‘for profit’ company needs to check your credit card first?

Dont let British Policing – the very best Policing in the world – be pulled into this mire.  Stand up for every man, woman and child of this country and support your Police.  They march in London this Thursday, May 10th.  They march not for the loss of 20% funding but for impending loss of your safety.  Let them know you care as much as they do.

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13 Responses to We are the 20%

  1. Tony Barber says:

    … Scaremongering is such a clever way to avoid having to make any changes, or to have to face actual scrutiny. Good plan! it may even work.

  2. Paul says:

    Excellent and well written blog, not sure I agree with your “End of Days” scenario if I can put it like that, but I can see that it is a definite possibility. Tony your scaremongering comment may well come back and bite your Ass… Keep looking over your shoulder!

  3. Carcassian says:

    I loved this. So better a blog piece than the simple “..but it isn’t 20%” blog post that others have posted. Well done Cate.

  4. I just thought I would add that I was the first prospective candidate for Thames Valley to specify a commitment to policing numbers. You can view details here http://www.darrenjaundrill.me.uk/TVPCC/?p=ten-point-plan-for-thames-valley and my further thoughts here http://www.darrenjaundrill.me.uk/TVPCC/?e=3.

    The reduction of 20% central government funding to the Police by 2014/15 is a fact we must all now deal with. Decisions now face those charged with the duty to do so of either offsetting the reduction in funding by raising the local precept, finding efficiency elsewhere in the service, seeking collaborative agreements to pool resources or indeed a combination of all three.

    Please allow me to be clear, if I am elected, there will be no decrease in core policing numbers from the baseline of April 2012. I believe these numbers are 4177 warranted full time officers, 513 Police and Community Safety Officers and 529 Special Constables. I am awaiting verification on those numbers but this would be the baseline I would take, No reduction below that number. I would seek to raise that number once I was certain that funding is stable and that we have made the backoffice efficiencies needed.

    You are quite right that the argument is over what the figure, whether it be 12%, 14% or any number between there and 20%, it is what is going to happen as a result. I am the only candidate currently to tell you what I would not allow it to do and that is to reduce the core policing numbers.

    Kind Regards

    Darren.

    • catemoore says:

      Thats a bit of cheeky electioneering Darren! Allowed once and once only!

      • Apologies. It was my answer to the question in the blog though of what will happen or rather what won’t happen. The Police & Crime Commissioner has the power to decide this once they are in post.

        People need to be engaging with candidates now to get them to make their plans and commitments known, whatever they may be, to the people for which they will work for and on behalf of.

    • Alan (@alanw47) says:

      You can pledge all you want Darren, and you might even mean it, what you can’t promise are two things 1) That Police Officers will not leave their employment as a consequence of the Winsor proposals and 2) Unless it becomes compulsory to join the Police you cannot assume that recruitment will remain at its current levels. Therefore I fail to see how you can promise no reduction in core policing numbers, however well-meant your promise may be

  5. Peter Walker says:

    Cate – whilst you know I do not subscribe to the long term scenario you describe, I think there is cause for concern.

    The country faces a financial challenge. During the Labour years, public spending grew to the point where Britain had an unsustainable amount of debt. In addition, the Public Sector of the economy had also grown and that created a fiscal deficit – each year, we had a Budget that would spend more than we earn, so the amount of national debt would grow.
    The game-changer was the world financial crisis of 2008. Suddenly, everyone realised that the economies of major nations and the growth that had taken place had been fuelled by borrowing. Money available became scarcer and more expensive. All these nations found that their “Credit Rating” was at risk. They had to rein in spending and borrow less money on the world market. They had to develop a plan that gave credibility to their stated intentions about bringing down debt.

    In the UK, the newly-elected Coalition Government agreed that tight fiscal control would be the centrepiece of debt reduction. All Departments of State had to curtail their spending plans, with the exceptions of Health, Education and International Development.
    In the Home Office the same contribution to debt reduction was required as elsewhere. It is a challenging situation, but the alternative is higher interest rates on every loan and mortgage and even greater spending reductions to pay the interest. Presently, the interest we pay on our Sovereign debt would more than pay for Police, Health & Education. Divided by the population, it is about £1500 a year each. What a waste of money.

    I could debate for hours the amount in percentage terms that Police spending is being reduced by. The headline at Departmental level is 20%, You can calculate it in a manner that reduces that to 12% (I’ll admit you have to be a bit creative to get that number) and you can take into account rises in Council Tax which will produce about 14%. To me, it seems we have a pretty good description of the problem – there is not enough money and it is unlikely there is going to be any more in the foreseeable future – and the precise percentage isn’t something I’m going to spend too much time on, because I prefer to look at a solution.
    My cause for concern is the response that Police Authorities and Chiefs have so far come up with. HMIC recently reviewed the plans that Forces had made. Many were found wanting. Most had made assumptions about inflation that were optimistic. It was clear that Tim Brain’s analysis in respect of the “sea change” in Police funding had come when the leadership of the service were not prepared for it. (Fair do’s – they are not alone, most senior Public Sector people have only known times of plenty.)

    It is not surprising therefore, that the response has been such that the front-line Police Officers have expressed their dismay at its impact. Most forces have frozen recruitment. The immediate impact of that will hit the Patrol workforce, because the Police is culturally averse to “doing without” in the specialist teams. (I saw that happen for thirty years and I know it still goes on.) Every time someone “Acts Up” to fill a gap – it’s “one off the Late Turn”.
    My particular reservation is that Bureaucracy and Bureaucrats have not been cut in proportionate terms.- and now I’m going to focus on the Force I am most interested in, North Yorkshire, because that is one where I can evidence the specifics.

    200 Police Officer posts were cut before this Government came into power and the plan for this was laid before the “Credit Crunch”. The Police Authority plan to reduce Police Officer numbers by a further 140 over the next two years. That’s back to levels last seen in the 1970’s.

    At the same time, the plan is to retain the present number of PCSO’s – despite their limited operational effectiveness and to reduce Bureaucrats by only ten. Since the start of this financial year, adverts have been placed by the Force for over £400k worth of support staff, but there are no plans to recruit Police Officers this year. Even the Police Authority’s own office has an advert out for a temporary post and the latest adverts in the Force were for “Business Analysts” in the “Futures Directorate” (whatever that is).

    So the short version is that perhaps the angst should not be aimed at the Government – because when it comes to North Yorkshire Police, it’s not “Government Cuts” that are taking away the Police Officers, it’s the local choices, made by the Police Authority which cause the lack of front line Police.
    Cut Bureaucracy and Bureaucrats – not Cops!

    • Alan (@alanw47) says:

      Peter, your comment seems well-researched and well-meant. However, the great ‘we’ are not stupid, we know that the financial situation is as bad as it has been for many a long year and that belts need to be tightened etc. Most of the people I know, and have served with, are not opposed to changes if there is a good reason for them. Indeed most of them would relish the prospect of a bit of modernisation in the police. Without exception I think they could all accept the challenge if it was delivered with honesty, respect and a lack of cynicism. Was it really a good time for Cabinet Ministers to improve their own pensions? I have worked within a Police Authority and have witnessed first hand some of the seemingly perverse policies they have come up with, but nevertheless Central Government chooses its fights carefully. In my opinion they were pretty toothless with the bankers, they could have gone so much further, but public services are like shooting fish in barrel. We witness billions of pounds being given out in Foreign Aid, sometimes to some of the richest economies in the world, and then get told that our own incomes are being frozen, or even worse, reduced. I don’t see MPs offering to reduce their salaries and pensions to make their contribution.

      I completely ‘get’ that sometimes there just isn’t enough money to go round, but I also think that some things just can’t be cut back (Health services, Armed Forces, Police etc) risesrises fo

    • Alan (@alanw47) says:

      Maybe the bullet that should be bitten is that we will maintain levels as they are with pay rises limited to no more than the rate of inflation for the foreseeable future. If any of these valuable public services (including HM Coastguard) is savaged it will never be retrieved. Many of them are rightly the envy of the world, it would be a tragedy if they were reduced to no better than Average. Yes there is anger and dissent amongst the troops but I for one do not feel that it is selfishness that is causing it but PRIDE. I just sincerely hope that a reasonable compromise can be reached before it is too late.

  6. Constable Goody says:

    Great blog and re-tweeted for others to read 🙂

  7. bernardrix says:

    As you know, Cate, I don’t agree with all you put in your blog. But we’ve found common ground in the past. Let’s look for it again.

    The bigger issue in policing (away from the “20%”) is the current state of police morale. You’ll know from my own blog that I’ve raised this – not least with the Home Secretary in public forum in the recent past. In the audience for this were, amongst others: Federation Chairman, Supts Assn President, several ACPO.

    Police morale is, in my opinion, the biggest current issue in policing.

    Derek Barnett, the President of the Superintendents’ Association, has written an excellent blog that touches on some of the matters that have contributed to this. It is entitled “Above all, Hope”. Readers can find it via http://www.policesupers.com. An extract:

    “Do we each simply retrench into our respective bunkers with our own thoughts about police reform, including the new Police Professional Body, privatisation, the Winsor Review, and pensions? Do we carry on with the same rhetoric?”

    He concludes:

    “It may be painful and it will take time and patience and a willingness to find common ground, but we must take it before it is too late.”

    He spoke in much the same terms, I understand, at Police Federation Conference earlier today.

    Perhaps we can, Cate – as a first small step – agree with Derek that all with influence should make every effort to find common ground, and an agreed way forward.

    And that, then, would be yet another piece of common ground that you and I share.

    Bernard

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