10 April 2018
Home Secretary Amber Rudd has been criticised for failing to acknowledge that massive cuts to officer numbers have had a detrimental effect on the police service’s ability to tackle violent crime.
Tiff Lynch, chair of Leicestershire Police Federation, spoke out after a weekend in which many commentators pointed to the cuts to police budgets as a contributory factor in the escalation of violent crime, particularly in London and other major cities.
“Since the Government’s cuts programme started in 2010 we have lost 21,000 police officers and 7,000 PCSOs nationwide; that is a massive reduction and has had a significant impact on the service we are able to provide to our communities. In that same period, we have seen no corresponding fall in demand for our help and support and, in fact, as the service that never says no, we have found ourselves trying to plug the gaps in other public sector bodies that have also had their own budgets slashed,” says Tiff.
“I find it incredible the Home Secretary appears to be ignoring the cuts that her party has made to police budgets and the resultant reduction in police numbers.
“Police officers are committed to fighting and preventing crime, keeping order and protecting the vulnerable but it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to do that. We have seen a significant decline in the visible policing presence that we know is essential not just for the fight against crime but also for boosting community reassurance, deterring offenders and helping gather intelligence.
“This is bad news for the public but good news for criminals and those intent on anti-social behaviour. Fewer crimes are being thoroughly investigated and we are seeing less and less proactive policing.”
Tiff says it’s not just the public who are suffering though. Officers are feeling the pressure of increased workloads and a failure to provide a high-level service. They are also suffering from a poor work-life balance as their rest days are cancelled to cover shifts and periods of high demand.
She said: “We are seeing more officers reporting work-related illness which either leads them to taking time off work or poorly performing. The Force is doing its best to balance operational demand with its limited resources but it is getting harder and harder for it to do so.”
The Home Secretary yesterday launched the Government’s new Serious Violence Strategy but the document, which is 111 pages long, does not mention the fall in officer numbers.
It focuses on four main themes: tackling county lines and the misuse of drugs; early intervention and preventions; supporting communities and local partnerships and law enforcement and the criminal justice response.
National Federation chair Calum Macleod said: “This is all very well but where are the measures to tackle the rising tide in violence that we are seeing right now? We know that knife crime is up by 21 per cent and gun crime by 20 per cent. These intervention strategies might work in 10 years’ time but what do we say in the meantime to the families of the victims who have been tragically killed?
“Ms Rudd also refused to comment on a leaked Home Office document which appeared to state that the fall in police numbers is likely to have contributed to a rise in serious violent crime. It also said a lack of resources and fewer charges may have ‘encouraged’ offenders to commit crimes but Ms Rudd claims not to have seen this report which I find shocking.
“There is also no mention of the recent HMICFRS PEEL inspection which admitted that the police service was cracking under the strain and unable to keep up with demand.”
The strategy sits alongside the new Offensive Weapons Bill which will be brought forward within weeks, making it illegal to possess certain offensive weapons like zombie knives and knuckle-dusters.
But the Leicestershire Police Federation chair has questioned who is going to uphold the new law.
“Legislation is one thing but having enough police officers to uphold the law is another,” Tiff explained, “The police service is under severe strain, we know it, the public know it and the Government inspectors know it. Sadly, the Government and the Home Office, which are in a position to do something about it, seem to be burying their heads in the sand.
“It is time they re-invested in the police service. The first duty of any Government is the protection of its citizens but a poorly-funded and under-resourced police service is not going to enable it to do that.”