The Conservative dominated Westminster government is running the risk of creating a perfect storm within our police service by cutting starting salaries for new police officers. This comes on top of budget cuts that have forced many forces to freeze recruitment, and reduce officer and civilian support staff numbers with redundancies. There will be consequences including a shortage of younger and older officers and a reduction in front line services as civilian support staff are also reduced in number.
Many police forces across the UK are already under severe pressure, as they attempt to balance budget cuts and a drop in personnel while simultaneously trying to maintain a high standard of policing and ensuring public safety. On Tuesday the Home Secretary announced that police officers' starting salary will be cut by 17% to £19,000. This is the latest of series of assaults on funding for public services which are ill thought out and ill-timed.
The Con Dem government’s unsustainable budget cuts and proposed changes in working practices will threaten to undermine the morale of hard-working officers in every force in England and Wales. Our police do a superb and difficult job but both the reputation of our police services and the safety of communities may be put at risk. The Con Dem London government’s priorities are clearly driven by ideology, rather than principle.
We have reached a historic low when it comes to this Westminster Government’s absolute lack of respect for the police service and a complete lack of understanding for the important role our police play in our communities and society. The short term decisions made by this Westminster government will have far-reaching and potentially long lasting consequences by making it more difficult for the police to ensure that they are able to deal with crime and public order.
One unforeseen consequence of Police budget cuts may be a boost to the not so secret Conservative privatisation agenda – back in February (2012) G4S a private security company signed a deal to design, build and run a police station in Lincolnshire. This agreement between G4S and Lincolnshire Police was the first of its kind in the UK and may hint at the future of policing as it is envisaged by Cameron’s Conservatives.
As part of the deal, around two-thirds of civilian support staff employed by the force is to be transferred across to the private sector. This contract might possibly save Lincolnshire Constabulary around £20 million pounds but at what cost over the medium term to support staff terms and condition and the provision of services to the public.
This probably a step too far for most people, but, despite any mutterings to the contrary from Labour in Wales’s representatives in Westminster our Police forces here in Wales are in my opinion acutely vulnerable to back door privatisation and further potential cuts in funding and services. The sooner Policing and Criminal Justice are devolved to Wales the better for all of us as this would strengthen the democratic process and protect our police services and our communities.