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.