90 days from today is Thu, 14 February 2019
7 November 2018
A new Parliamentary report highlighting how public confidence in the police service has been ‘severely dented’ after cuts to force budgets should be another sign to the Government that it has got it wrong on policing, according to West Midlands Police Federation chair Rich Cooke.
Rich, who earlier this week had a comment piece on the crisis in policing published in The Telegraph, has spoken out again after the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) today issued a report giving yet another damning indictment of the Home Office’s management of police finances.
“There is nothing in this latest report that comes as a surprise to me or to officers the length and breadth of the country. Policing is on its knees. We need a return to more visible policing, the type of policing that means officers are present on our streets, acting as a deterrent to those who are intent on committing crime but also catching criminals,” says Rich.
“Instead, due to the Government’s cuts programme, we just don’t have enough officers to do that and we are being forced into offering a largely reactive service; that proactive and preventative side of front-line policing is pretty much dead.
“The public can see this happening, they are aware the police service is having to prioritise what it can respond to but what I just don’t understand is why members of the Government are burying their heads in the sand.
“This latest report is the third in recent months to highlight the challenges we are facing. In September the National Audit Office said the Home Office has no systematic approach to ensuring forces are financially sustainable then last month the Home Affairs Select Committee warned the Home Office lacked a clear picture of the funding levels needed to maintain a service the public has a right to expect.
“Last week Sara Thornton, chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, prompted a debate about forces needing to ‘refocus on core policing’ because of limited resources.
“So I would ask, how many more times can this message be relayed to the Government before it finally acts and re-invests in policing?”
Rich’s views have been echoed by national Police Federation chair John Apter who has labelled the Government’s failings in relation to policing a ‘national scandal’.
He said: “This report is the latest in a long series of huge red flags for the Government. This is now a critical situation and a national scandal. And they can’t say they weren’t warned.
“Dedicated police officers are at breaking point and are overwhelmed by the ever-increasing demands being heaped on them as a result of eight years of austerity.”
The PAC report says the Home Office does not understand the demands being faced by the police service and calls for an overhaul of the funding formula, which calculates how much money forces receive from central Government.
In a summary, it says funding for police forces is down by nearly a fifth since 2010-11 and there are nearly a fifth fewer officers and staff. Inevitably, there are consequences and forces are under increasing strain.
It adds, forces cannot do everything and are prioritising their work by cutting back in some areas, such as neighbourhood policing meaning fewer officers on the street but concludes public confidence in the police is declining and officers’ personal resilience is under pressure with this reduction in visibility.