90 days from today is Mon, 16 September 2024

Avon & Somerset Police Federation

Traffic officer cuts linked to failure to reduce road deaths over past decade

18 January 2022

A failure to reduce the number of road deaths in the past decade is the sad and inevitable consequence of significant cuts to the police service’s budget.

That is the view of Avon and Somerset Police Federation Chair Mark Loker, who was speaking after a new investigation showed the number of police officers tasked with enforcing road laws has dropped by 15% since 2016.

Figures from 34 forces who responded to a Freedom of Information request by BBC Panorama showed the total number of dedicated traffic officers fell from 5,014 in 2016 to 4,257 currently.

Meanwhile, the number of people killed on the roads each year remained stable between 2010 and 2019, after going down for three decades.

And Mark said politicians who have backed cuts to police budgets are gambling with people’s lives.

He said: “Police numbers and funding have dominated as political topics and General Election promises for over a decade now.

“Politicians have emphasised the need for 'uniformed officers being visible, local and accessible', given media interviews defending their cuts to police numbers, insisted that any budget will put security first, and promised to protect police budgets and provide an ‘extra’ 20,000 officers.

“But what these politicians do not seem to comprehend is that they are gambling with people’s lives, they are risking their electorate’s safety.

“The Government has said there will be 20,000 additional Bobbies recruited – but in reality they’re actually just putting back what they’ve taken from policing over a decade of systematic cuts.

“As grateful as we are for more officers, what we do not see is sufficient thought about the infrastructure that also disappeared as part of those cutbacks – including the investment in training, equipment and specialisms.

“In three years, 30% of our colleagues will have less than five years’ service. And it now takes three years for any new officers to be out of their probationary period after being educated to a degree standard before they can police without abstractions to a University.

“Police forces across the country are stretched to beyond capacity, beyond safe limits by public demand.

“In 2015 the Police Federation launched the #CutsHaveConsequences campaign, highlighting the extreme cuts to police numbers. Yet that was ignored, scorned and met by accusations of ‘crying wolf’ and ‘scaremongering’.

“But what we are seeing is the results of those cuts. We are seeing the consequences and that sadly is seriously affecting public safety, evidenced by deaths on our roads.”

Mark added that having “cops in cars” on busy roads and motorways has the dual benefit of helping to prevent road deaths as well as other types of criminality.

He said: “Many members of the public believe roads policing is a form of income generation, but that is not true: many forces have had to switch speed cameras off to save operating costs.

“Roads Policing is singularly focused on making roads safer and preventing deaths. Cars are becoming more powerful, essential in everyday use, and often taken for granted.

“Our roads and motorways are structurally important, law abiding members of our communities and criminals alike often cannot go a day without using them.

“We have to have the ability to police them to keep people safe, we have to have the ability to put cops in cars. There is no secret in the correlation between road deaths and the decline in the number of dedicated road traffic officers.

“While a dashcam can help police by identifying an offence giving us evidence to send out a summons, 60% of people who commit a road-traffic offence are involved in other criminality, dashcams are little use in those circumstances.

“The lack of a proper police presence on UK roads doesn’t only risk an increase in fatalities – it also risks a decline in prosecutions where people benefit from criminality whilst using our roads.

“We’re missing that and I believe it’s what the public would want us to deal with to keep them safe.

“Between 2013 and 2019, the expenditure for roads policing reduced by about 34% in real terms, which is approximately £120million.

“During that same time, a HMICFRS report states that fatalities on our roads rose from 1,541 fatalities in 2013 to 1,752 in 2019.

“The correlation in those figures stares us in the face, yet we still do not seem to see Government prepared to accept the consequences of their cuts and that they are causing risks to every user of our roads systems.”