One of the key duties of a government is to keep its citizens safe. Externally, this is down its armed forces and its diplomacy. Internally, by the police. For some reason it seems to historically have been presumed that the Conservatives are the party of law and order.
That is, of course, tosh.
If the sight of a Conservative Home Secretary being booed by the Police Federation isn’t enough, how about a policing budget being cut by 4% per year since the Tories came to power. This is as well as wasting some £100m to elect “Police & Crime Commissioners” (and another 3.7 this month on a by-election for such).
So with all that money coming out of budgets, how have police numbers in the county of Essex been affected? Well, they’ve gone down, obviously.
First thing is first, here’s the raw data:
This has been culled from Home Office statistics, publicly available via the Gov.uk web portal, so anyone can take a look. If you’re a stats-geek like me you might even enjoy it.
Police officers are the front line, visible arm of law and order, so it makes sense to start there, and this graph is fairly unambigous. There’s a slight increase up to September 2010, but after that when the coalition government’s budget cuts kick in it starts to tumble.
543 officers lost since the peak, that’s a 15% decrease in just under four years. Let that sink in a moment; the “party of law an order”, who through that time have been in power both nationally, and across almost all of Essex, have slashed the number of police officers by 15%.
Police staff do decidedly less glamorous jobs, but they are still vitally important to policing. Sure, you can blather on about protecting “front line” staff, but without the people doing the jobs behind the scenes what use are they? Who would answer the 999 calls, give instructions to the officers, keep police stations running through all hours day and night?
The line above doesn’t seem to slope as starkly as the one for police officers, but it’s still a noticeable decline. 498 staff lost since March 2010, accounting for a shocking 24%. Practically a quarter, stripped right out of the effectiveness and efficiency of the police force which is supposed to be protecting us.
Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs)
Finally, let’s look at PCSOs. This role was introduced — not to universal acclaim, it has to be said — in 2002. The idea was to introduce an element of neighbourhood policing, focusing on lower-level crimes which can blight local areas. The idea is fantastic, and it provides a ready and visible police presence on the streets — something which can be a real help in deterring crimes like anti-social behaviour.
147 PCSO roles have gone in just four years. That’s 33%. A third. A third of PCSOs are gone.
Policing is important; one of those recurring issues which comes up time and time again on the doorstep. People want to feel safe in their homes, their neighbourhoods, their communities. There is more to crime and justice than numbers of police, but it is the cornerstone, the lynchpin on which it all depends.
And it’s that lynchpin which the Tories are hacking away at.