Comment: Police service massacred by cuts

Police are facing cuts of 20% to their budget in a move which could decimate the service and play Russian roulette with public safety.

By Paul McKeever

'Cut' is a rather lame description of the harsh reality of what the coalition government is doing to the police service. Hacked, chopped, slashed and generally massacred is more accurate.

Regardless of the description, regrettably the result is the same – this government is completely decimating the service as we know it, disrespecting all that Sir Robert Peel stood for and ruining decades of progress to make it a model regarded as one of the finest in the world.

The ill-conceived and indeed naive policies will undoubtedly have serious consequences. This is not the first time I have said this, nor will it be the first time I will be accused of scaremongering.

Whichever way you cut it, the government is playing Russian roulette with the safety and welfare of the British public. The fate of the nation is in the hands of a government with a blinkered view of policing and crime.

On occasions we have received deserved recognition for the job that we do and the sacrifices we make. However, such platitudes sadly now ring hollow as we face the bitter reality of the government's true intentions. It seems we have a Hobson's choice between losing jobs or cutting pay.

We accept that we have to take our fair share of cuts but not to the detriment of the service as a whole and for officers personally. The officers we represent are facing long and prolonged hardship.

How much more can we take? A two-year pay freeze with major changes to police pay and pensions. We are expected to pay more for our pensions; get less and work longer. And what will part two of the Winsor Review have in store?

The coalition seems oblivious to the growing unrest in society, the increase in public disorder and the consequences. What about the inevitable increased terrorist threats following the killing of Osama Bin Laden and the consequences? What about the scale of the forthcoming Olympics and the consequences?

We are told to focus on purely fighting crime but, at the risk of repeating myself again, there is so much more to policing than simply dealing with crime. With more demands and less resources, what is the fate of the communities we serve?

The first duty of government must be to protect its citizens. The public do not wish to see the police service diminished.

In a recent survey, commissioned by the Police Federation of England and Wales and undertaken by Ipsos MORI, 86% of the general public said they would be worried about a reduced police service.

Indeed, the findings from the survey illustrated that the public think the police are responsible for a number of services which are not fighting crime, with 84% saying they believe the police are responsible for intervening in domestic rows and disputes; 23% saying they believe the police are responsible for arranging for vulnerable children to be taken in to care; and 39% saying the police are responsible for monitoring offenders who have been released from prison.

The results of the survey clearly demonstrate that the public have a very different view about what they want and expect of their police service, compared to the government's blinkered view that policing should be purely about fighting crime.

If the police service is able to do all that the public expects of it, it will need the shackles of financial restraint urgently removed. A cut of 20 per cent over the next four years will inevitably lead to a poorer service, increased crime rates and will seriously jeopardise public safety and the security of the nation.

The Police Federation of England and Wales is holding a rally at the Methodist Central Hall in Westminster on July 13th 2011. The purpose of the meeting is to highlight the very real concerns we have about cuts to the police budget and changes to terms and conditions.

Sadly, I expect thousands of valuable, experienced frontline officers to leave the service before a two-year pay freeze starts in September. This cannot happen and surely any responsible government would agree.

Officer morale is at rock-bottom and they are also facing a likely increase in their pension contributions.

The event on the 13th July is the first in a series of activities in our campaign to appeal to the government to listen to sense. The government is pushing through cuts without thinking about the unintended consequences.

We need considered and objective reform; we need a Royal Commission on policing. Never has so much been expected for so little. These cuts are criminal and I challenge the government to step into reality.

Paul McKeever is the chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales.

The opinions in's Comment and Analysis section are those of the author and are no reflection of the views of the website or its owners.