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16 July 2020
A report on roads policing released yesterday (15 July) by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) shows that as funding for the police has fallen, enforcement of roads offences such as drink driving and use of mobile phones at the wheel has also declined.
The report, which was commissioned by the Department for Transport, shows that roads policing has suffered bigger cuts in its budget than other areas as forces have diverted money to other parts of their service.
Gemma Fox, PFEW Roads Policing Lead, said: “It is shameful that chronic underfunding has led to a lack of resources for this vital area of policing. This should not be seen as a failure to enforce, but a failure to resource. I welcome this new focus on roads policing, and I hope that this report is translated into proper funding for my colleagues.”
Tim Rogers, response driving lead for the Police Federation, added: “Sadly, this report does not come as any great surprise. The inspectors’ views echo what we have been saying for some time. Roads policing has been allowed to slip down the list of priorities. It has been under-funded meaning that it has become under-resourced and people have been paying for that with their lives.
“I am not sure what it is going to take for the Government, chief officers and Police and Crime Commissioners to realise what a critical role roads policing officers play in helping ensure that people can use our roads safely. Between 2015 and 2018, an average of just over 1,600 people lost their lives on our roads network and many more were seriously injured. That should be impactive enough in itself to make police leaders decide to take action.”
The report lays the blame for these figures squarely down to budget cuts and an apparent decline in the priority given to roads policing.
Mr Rogers said he hopes the report will be enough to prompt a reinvestment in roads policing. “We need chief officers and Police and Crime Commissioners to act on the recommendations in this report and halt the steady increase in deaths on our roads and tackle the criminal elements making use of our roads network,” he added.
Roads policing or road safety was listed as a priority in only 19 of 43 force plans, the report found. In one 21-page plan, the word ‘road’ appeared only once, where it referred to partner agencies (not the force) being concerned about road safety issues. In another, there was no reference to roads or road safety at all.’
Between 2013 and 2019, the total amount of money spent by police forces in England and Wales on all police functions reduced by about 6.1 percent. However, the reduction in expenditure for roads policing has reduced by about 34 percent in real terms (taking inflation into account), which is approximately £120m.
As a result, hard-pressed roads officers are having to make difficult decisions about enforcement, leading to statistics such as a 6 per cent rise in car occupants who were killed due to not wearing a seat belt, coupled with a corresponding 75 per cent drop in fixed penalty notices issued for not wearing a seat belt.
In perhaps the most damning statistic, the number of breath tests of motorists were cut by 25 per cent between 2015 and 2018. The proportion of people killed or seriously injured by drink drivers rose by a similar amount over the same period.