Bobbies on the brink
£3.5 billion of further cuts have been ordered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond. This includes the police force, already heavily struggling, taking a further 3-6% cut. The watchdog Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has already labelled the condition of English and Welsh police as “potentially perilous”. They have been acting as if cases aren’t as important as they are to explain their delayed responses, they’re unable to cope with the number of wanted suspects, and the shortage of investigators is at crisis level. Ron Hogg, Police Crime and Victims’ commissioner for County Durham and Darlington, for example, has said how the last round of cuts reduced their officers by 25%. Hogg says they cannot cope with more cuts; “enough is enough”. To make things worse, budgets that the government promised to protect are in danger, since the up to 6% cuts are unlikely to meet the £3.5 billion cuts Hammond has demanded. Bearing all this in mind, it seems impractical, illogical and immoral to force more cuts down the throat of the police.
Our public sector has faced a never-ending attack of cuts after cuts. In 2010, we were told categorically by the Tory government that austerity would be finished by 2015. When Hammond became Chancellor he told us that cuts would continue past 2021 (and yet, the Tories are seen as an economically credible and reliable party). Now we have been hit with the reality of £3.5 billion in cuts in 2017, with presumably much more to come.
Why would they force through these cuts when they’re already at breaking point? It’s clearly impractical and, considering Theresa May’s hard authoritarian history, it seems odd that she would want criminals to get away without punishment. The answer is simple: ideology. The Conservatives have long believed that competition drives up performance and therefore the government shouldn’t have monopolies, giving them up to the private sector. It doesn’t matter what happens to the services, as long as they’re in private sector hands. Cutting public services to encourage a transfer to the private sector is one way of doing this.
Regardless of what is in fact of benefit to the services and to what the consequences of these cuts will be, May will continue to push them through. We’ve already seen that May will follow this path, following the disaster for G4S in the 2012 Olympics. G4S, the private sector security company, was paid to be on security at the stadiums and the team hotels, but failed spectacularly because of its inability to recruit enough people and its lack of preperation, meaning military troops had to step in. Yet almost straight afterwards May said that the police should give more of their services to the private sector! Further, she refused to review the £1 billion contracts the government has with G4S. When the police have been doing well (or coping as best as possible under cuts), trying to replace more of them with private companies like G4S is a ridiculous suggestion, yet her ideology meant that she pushed on ahead anyway. We can see this further with train companies which have repeatedly hiked up prices for a frankly (at best) mediocre service. It would likely be much better and fairer for it to be in the public sector, but ideology allows them to ignore the practical benefits and costs.
These cuts are hitting many sectors hard, and the police are already failing to fully cope with the current cuts. Cutting further is worrying not only for our safety, but for the future of policing as a whole.
(Image courtesy of Big Brother Watch)