Barnardo’s Cut Them Free Campaign – I have today backed Barnardo’s calls for police forces to do more to “cut children free” from sexual exploitation.
Specifically, the campaign seeks to commit police forces to ensure that:
- a senior officer has lead responsibility for the issue
- there will be specialist police officers deal with individual cases
- frontline and strategic officers will receive training to tackle child sexual exploitation
- child sexual exploitation is flagged on the local police force database
- the police force engages with the Local Safeguarding Children Board and neighbouring police forces to tackle this abuse
- police deal appropriately with alleged or known victims of child sexual exploitation
With considerable experience of prosecuting child trafficking and child cruelty cases, this issue is close to my heart. If elected, I pledge to take these steps to end child sexual exploitation.
The Truth About Police Numbers
All week I’ve been bombarded with questions about police numbers…here I am going to try and give some answers…
YOU SAY YOU ARE AGAINST 20% CUTS, WHAT WOULD LABOUR HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY?
Whoever was in power, some cuts were inevitable. My fear is that the Tories and Lib Dems are cutting too far and too fast and destroying police capacity and morale. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary have warned that by 2015 we will have 15000 fewer officers nationwide.
Labour would have cut funding at a rate of 12% a year, a more sustainable approach.
BUT ISN’T THE FRONTLINE BEING PROTECTED IN THAMES VALLEY?
It depends how you define the frontline! Although the number of officers in visible policing roles has increased in Thames Valley since 2010 this is only half the story. There are 51 fewer officers performing “back office functions” and 224 fewer performing “middle office” functions. So what are these “middle office” functions? Well, the reduction in officers from the so-called “middle office” are as follows:
CID: 97 (offset by 60 more burglary officers),Crime and Incident Management: 86, Criminal Justice: 38 Operational planning: 21, Senior/middle managers: 16, Intelligence: 15
Professional Standards: 5, Call handling: 4
In addition, 24 of the 51 fewer officers lost from the back office were involved in training.
Now, the point is that all of these officers were performing important jobs. Far too often the debate on police numbers is focussed only on the number actually on the beat, with a vague assumption that anything else is “bureaucracy”. In fact, cutting non frontline jobs can end up putting more pressure on e front line. As Wokingham Neighbourhood Team Inspector, Greg Elphic commented in July:
“Administration is taking longer to be processed and functions dealt with by back room staff could now be done by frontline officers who are meant to be out on the street”.
This brings me to my final statistic about the cuts. All the focus has been on officer numbers, but civilian staff can play a key suppporting role. Already, in Thames Valley their numbers have dropped from 2879 (2010) to 2723 (earlier this year).
SO WHAT WILL YOU DO NOW TO FIGHT FURTHER CUTS TO NUMBERS?
It is vital to use these elections to send a strong message to the government that the British people reject the 20% cuts, and force the government to think twice about cutting police further.
In the immediate term, the sheer scale of the cuts make it neccessary to increase the police precept (the part of your council tax that goes to police). I think politicians need to be honest about this. HMIC projections of Thames Valley Police losing 120 officers by 2015 are on the assumption that the precept will rise by 2% in 2012-13 and by 2.5% the following year. If any candidates in this election claim that they can reduce or freeze the police precept, without cutting police numbers, they are just not being straight with you.
My own plans involve a modest increase in the police precept of up to 4%. Despite the funding problems the police face, at a time of recession this seems to me to be the limit of what it would be reasonable to ask local tax payers to contribute.
Finally, it is important to emphasise that a rise in the police precept of 4% would translate into an increase in tax of £6 extra per year for an average band D household. This would enable me to stop further cuts to police numbers, and to start working towards restoring Thames Valley police to 2010 levels. I believe this is a price worth paying.