2015 has arrived â€“ the year in which there will be a General Election. Police reform is still high on the agenda of this government â€“ and yet there are millions of pounds being wasted, in policing, that David Cameron and Theresa May donâ€™t want discussed and wonâ€™t deal with!
We are all aware that the funding of the public sector is becoming an ever-increasing struggle and, for years, successive governments have made cuts to police budgets. At the end of last year the government announced that UK police services would have their budgets cut by another 5%; meaning that they will need to make even more efficiency savings.
In December, Sir Bernard Hogan Howe spoke about the need to review police governance â€“ and he has not been listened to.
This followed the Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester Police, Tony Lloyd, expressing concern in September that GMP would be reduced to 6,000 by 2017 â€“ and no longer able to function. At about the same timeÂ the Chief Constable of Cumbria, Jerry Graham, wasÂ saying similar.
At the beginning of December Lincolnshire Police Chief Constable, Neil Rhodes, said that his force would have to cut 20% of front-line officers and that his force would be â€˜unsustainableâ€™ by 2018.
And yet no politician is willing to look at cuts at the top of the police service. Why? It is because, in 2012, David Cameron and Theresa May introduced Police Crime Commissioners (PCCs). The role of these PCCs is to hold Chief Constables to account for the performance of their force’s area, officers and staff. Something you won’t be told is the cost of electing these PCCs was Â£80 million – and the elections at their end of term will cost another Â£50 million!
Another thingÂ you won’t be told is that every PCC has built their own empire of paid staff, with a third of them costingÂ more than the Police Authorities they replaced.
So, how many Chief Constables does it take to run the police services of England and Wales? Forty three, apparently, all supported by Deputy Chief Constables and Assistant Chief Constables; together with their staff officers and secretaries.
The simple question to be asked is, â€˜how can we still afford all of these people, when front-line roles are being cut?â€™
The simple answer is, â€˜we canâ€™t!â€™
However, a decrease in the number of Chief Officer teams would also mean a decrease in the number of PCCs. Can you imagine either David Cameron or Theresa May having the strength of leadership to stand in the House of Commons and admitÂ that, after all the fuss made and money spent on introducing forty three Police and Crime Commissioners, they now only need about nine of them?
No, itâ€™s apparently easier to ignore the facts; waste millions of pounds and â€˜save faceâ€™.
So, what would a reduction in the number of Chief Officer teams save? In September 2014 the Surrey PCC, Kevin Hurley, estimated the ‘waste of having 43 police services’ at Â£2 billion!Â The kind of reduction Sir Bernard Hogan Howe recommends would save well over Â£1 billion – not including the potential sales of the unnecessary police headquarters that house all these teams.
Instead, there are PCCs around the country entering into ‘consultations’ about increasing the precept on our Council Tax, toÂ secure additional funding for policing. Personally, until I can see evidence of efficiency savings starting at the top of the organisation, I say that every one of us should vote no.