Wednesday, 14 December 2011

It makes no sense

The last Conservative government in the 1990s cut police numbers and crime rose across all categories.

Today’s papers report that police numbers have been cut this year, and that burglaries and robberies have increased by 9% and 4.5% respectively. Given their record, I wonder why anyone has ever taken seriously the Conservative claim to be the party of law and order.

It’s worth remembering what happened between the last and the present Conservative governments. Most people will remember Tony Blair’s promise to be ‘tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime’. Of course, he didn’t get everything right – none of us do. But, helped by the record number of police officers, crime fell by 43 per cent between 1997 and 2010 and the chance of being a victim of crime was at the lowest since records began.

When Labour left office in 2010, there were record numbers of police on the street, over 16,500 more than in 1997 in addition to over 16,000 new PCSOs. Because of the investment – especially in technology – it was also possible to identify and make significant efficiency savings. The clear plan was to deliver 12% efficiency savings between 2010 and 2015. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary said this could be achieved without impacting on frontline policing. It all made sense - cutting costs and cutting crime at the same time.

However, this Government has decided to ignore all the evidence and to implement early cuts of 20%. It’s too far and too fast.

The Inspectorate has already confirmed that nationally this will mean cuts of more than 16,000 police officers and 1,800 PCSOs. In South Yorkshire, 436 police officers are to be lost – nearly 1 in 6. More than 2000 of the most experienced police officers are being forcibly retired – a government term for ‘compulsory redundancy’.

So, it’s police down, crime up.

It makes no sense.