On 20th May Theresa May, the Home Secretary, told the Police Federation that they were ‘crying wolf’ over the impact of cuts to policing. Her argument is the fall in reported crime negates their claim that policing is being damaged. Perhaps she conveniently forgot to mention that Kent police’s detection of burglaries has halved. One of their Assistant Chief Constables, Rob Price said that the way in which the figures are recorded made them look worse. Perhaps Theresa May also conveniently forgot to mention that the way crime figures are recorded made them look better.
We all know that the way you measure performance can make it look worse – or better, if you’re the Home Secretary.
Actually, I believe most police officers recognise the need to be more efficient and cost effective. 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. However, any ‘reform’ – or organisational restructure – needs sound leadership and transparency. from her behaviour until now, that is what does not exist withinÂ Theresa May.
If she was serious about police reform then she would start with the structure and governance. In December 2014, Sir Bernard Hogan Howe spoke about theÂ need to review police governanceÂ â€“ and he has not been listened to. No politician is willing to look at cuts at the top of the police service because, in 2012, David Cameron and Theresa May introduced Police Crime Commissioners (PCCs). TheÂ role of these PCCsÂ is to hold Chief Constables to account for the performance of their force’s area, officers and staff. Something else she conveniently forgets to mentionÂ is theÂ cost of electing these PCCsÂ 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,Â withÂ a third of them costingÂ moreÂ than the Police Authorities they replaced.
Keeping 43 PCCs can only be justified ifÂ England and Wales keepsÂ 43 Chief Constables, all supported by Deputy Chief Constables and Assistant Chief Constables; together with their staff officers and secretaries.
The Police Federation claims 17,000 police officers have left since 2010. Yet not one senior leadership role has gone. Therefore, each senior police officer has fewer staff to lead and the expression ‘too many chiefs and not enough indians’ springs to mind.
At the beginning of December Lincolnshire Police Chief Constable, Neil Rhodes, said that his force would have toÂ cut 20% of front-line officersÂ and that his force would be â€˜unsustainableâ€™ by 2018. This followed the Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester Police, Tony Lloyd,Â expressing concern in SeptemberÂ 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.
It seems that the only people ‘crying wolf’ areÂ David Cameron and Theresa May. They have created a monster that they are reticent to dismantle and can you imagine either of them 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?Â No, itâ€™s apparently easier to ignore the facts; waste millions of pounds and â€˜save faceâ€™.
What would a reduction in the number of Chief Officer teams save? In September 2014 the Surrey PCC, Kevin Hurley, estimated theÂ ‘waste of having 43 police services’Â atÂ Â£2 billion!Â The kind of reduction Sir Bernard Hogan Howe recommends would save well overÂ Â£1 billionÂ - not including the potential sales of the unnecessary police headquarters that house all these teams.
How many front-line police officers would this pay for?Â So perhaps it is timeÂ the Police Federation askedÂ the Home Secretary about the things she has conveniently forgotten to mention.