The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) supports Labour’s intentions to invest in community-based policing in a bid to restore public confidence but warns any funding must come from central government.
In a keynote speech at the Institute for Government, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper expressed Labour’s intentions to tackle crime by putting an extra 13,000 neighbourhood police officers and police community support officers back on Britain’s streets, paid for with £360 million delivered from a shared procurement plan.
Speaking on the Conservative’s efforts to tackle crime, she said: “It is a shocking level of chaos, and it is damaging, but it’s not just the chaos and the incompetence that has caused the issues around crime and policing. Everything feels broken.
“They stood back as neighbourhood policing has crumbled, while the charge rate has plummeted, confidence in policing and the justice system has fallen and more victims are being let down.”
Ms Cooper, who acknowledged policing is “overstretched”, pledged a new initiative called the “neighbourhood policing guarantee” as part of an effort to make policing presence visible in the community, tackle anti-social behaviour and prevent growing numbers of young people being drawn into crime.
Responding to the announcement, PFEW National Chair Steve Hartshorn, said: “We appreciate Labour’s ambition to put police officers back at the heart of the community, as a visible police presence plays a pivotal role in building public confidence, which has been slowly eroded over the years.
“Neighbourhood policing has been massively undervalued, and subsequently decimated, over the space of more than a decade, with 6,000 fewer officers in these teams. An uplift in police officers is desperately needed, and we support plans to do so, but we need to exercise caution in how this can be achieved when forces are already having to make multi-million-pound budget cuts.
“We agree there is room for greater cooperation among forces and more efficiency savings through shared procurement, but significant, central government funding is needed, and we cannot continue to rely directly on taxpayers.
“We are concerned local taxpayers are effectively paying twice and doing so at a time when very few can afford increases in council tax - once through national taxation, and then again through local taxation and the precept. In fact, almost two thirds of police funding comes from the precept.
“The funding formula is also outdated and unfair, something which was acknowledged by the Government back in 2015, but nothing has been done to find a solution to this despite much talk. The public should not be facing a postcode lottery when it comes to something as important as their police service, with wealthier areas often receiving more funding due to a higher amount of tax paid.
“It is promising to see MPs recognising the importance of restoring such a vital, overlooked, area of policing, and providing solutions to help restore faith in the service, but significant, long-term, central government funding for the police service, which factors in inflation, is the key to achieving this. In addition to carefully considered changes to ensure there is not have a negative impact on our members who are doing the job day in and day out.
“I look forward to continue building relationships with parliamentarians to share the views of our members on the frontline to make the service better for them, and the public they serve.”