Letter to Bucks Free Press ....
Steve Baker MP may well be right to say that ‘We do rely on people behaving decently and obeying the law’.
He might also be correct to say ‘We do not live in a society where the police should be on every street corner and looking over every shoulder’. However he could and should have said that we know that not everyone does obey the law and when they don’t, we rely on Superintendant McLean and his team to be there on the street corner and at our shoulder to protect us.
Thames Valley Police have managed to maintain front line officer numbers despite cuts of £58m from 2010/11 to 2014/15 with a further £45m due to be found by end 2014/15. Prior to May 2015 Thames Valley Police had been informed they were expected to find another 5% of savings (£33m) between 2016 and 2018.
That is now the tip of the iceberg. In his post-election Budget Review George Osborne said that non-protected budgets needed to find savings of 25-40% over the next 5 years - that includes the police. Thames Valley Police budget for 2013/14 was £393.98m. Cuts of the size George Osborne is proposing will slash that by anywhere between £98m and £157.5m.
The Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner (a Conservative) said in May that the force could not afford another budget slash whilst Graham Smith, the chair of the Thames Valley Police Federation at the same time said "All the fat has been cut from the carcass, so we are looking at cuts potentially to real front-line policing in the future."
Across the country from 2010-2015 some 17,000 front line officers and 17,000 staff have been lost as a result of cuts. It is almost impossible to see how Thames Valley front line police numbers can be maintained in the face of the dramatic cuts Steve Baker’s Conservative government is insisting on. Will Thames Valley Police, like the Metropolitan Police have to look at removing Police Community Support Officers from their ranks? Where else might the savings be found?
Like Steve Baker I have great confidence in the police but I wonder how many police have confidence in this government’s commitment to providing them with the resources and numbers they need to safely and confidently carry out their jobs.
David Williams QC
Wycombe Labour 2015 Parliamentary Candidate.