March 27th 2015
In around six weeks’ time, the nation will go to the polls for the General Election.
Political commentators are already busily predicting which party or parties will secure the most votes and take power. There are no certainties with the election and many are saying it could be a close-run contest.
However, I think there is little doubt that whoever takes charge after 7 May, our budgets are going to remain tight. I have not heard anyone promising to restore police funding, increase officer numbers and invest in the one thing we know the public wants to see – more visible policing.
We all appreciate that everyone has had to play their part in helping tackle the deficit during the economic crisis but I believe policing has been forced to pay more than its fair share and that has obviously had an effect on police officers and staff. But, even more importantly, it has also affected the service we are able to provide to the communities we serve. Members of the public have suffered because, put simply, cuts have consequences.
The number of police officers in the West Midlands has been cut by 1,471 since 2010 as the Government sliced £146 million from our budgets. We are set to see a further 546 officer posts disappear by 2016-2017 and by the end of this year 27 of our 41 front desks will be closed.
We know that the police service has to move with the times, embrace new technology and ‘think smarter’. I don’t think any of us would disagree that advances in technology have enabled us to improve our services in many ways.
However, there are still many occasions when the people in our communities need to see an officer face to face; sometimes there is simply nothing else that will do.
We risk a complete disconnect from our neighbourhoods if we become a service that is only seen at major incidents rather than one that is part of the community, providing reassurance, building relationships with residents and business people. We want not just to fight crime but prevent crime, not just restore order but keep order and not just support the vulnerable when they get into difficulties but help avert those situations.
So what we do need from the future Government?
I think, first and foremost, any Government has to remember that its first duty is to protect its citizens and to keep them from harm. We need the new Government to understand that. It should also understand that the police service is being stretched to breaking point. Cuts have consequences; we can’t keep papering over the cracks in our service and those of others, such as the ambulance and mental health support services.
So, if there is to be no end to the cuts, maybe we need the Government to come out and tell us and members of the public which parts of the police service they can no longer expect to receive.
West Midlands Police Federation
March 17th 2015
Leaders of the West Midlands Police Federation today spoke of their fears for the future of the force in the wake of further cuts to staff.
Branch deputy chairman Tom Cuddeford warned: “Less officers working the beat mean less engagement with local communities and less people giving us information. The first point of contact with the police for many people is a chat with the bobby on the beat who is unlikely to be there any more – and police station front offices are also being closed.
March 16th 2015
We are continuing to get our message across with the #CutsHaveConsequences campaign.
Our initial press release has been widely covered across the Midlands and beyond while an advertisement we placed in The Metro for two consecutive weeks set out to let the public know the real effects of cuts.
But the latest ‘targets’ for the campaign were our existing West Midlands MPs and around 70 people expected to seek a seat in Parliament on the day of the General Election, 7 May.
In a letter sent to them all we highlighted the headline facts:
• We have lost 1,471 officer posts in five years
• We have also seen a reduction in police support staff
• Front enquiry offices have been closed
• Our budgets have already been cut by £146 million, and
• More cuts are expected.
But we also pointed out that, in addition to coping with these cuts, we are also seeing an increase in demand for our services as we try to fill gaps in other services – provision for people suffering with mental health issues and the ambulance service, to name just two.
In short, we started our two-month #CutsHaveConsequences campaign because of our fears for public, and officer, safety but also because we know the public want to see more visible policing, not less; they want community based officers, not remote officers to call upon just in an emergency; they want a committed and dedicated police force, not one in which officers are stretched to the limit as they try to match demand, under stress and itching to escape from the job they once loved because it has changed beyond recognition.
Some of the MPs were quick to respond to our letters. Not surprisingly, Jack Dromey, the Labour MP for Erdington, has supported our campaign and says we are right to ‘sound the warning bell’.
He wrote: “1,471 have now gone from the West Midlands Police service since 2010. This is the worst time to cut almost 17,000 police officers and over 14,000 police staff nationwide. After a generation of progress in reducing crime, there are disturbing signs that recorded violent and sexual crime is rising. And crime is changing. The police are already struggling to cope with combating child sexual exploitation and abuse as well as new forms of online fraud and cyber-crime. In addition, just when our country faces a grave threat to national security, there are over 8,000 fewer on the front-line.
“The first duty of any Government is the safety and security of its citizens. Theresa May is failing in that duty. We will not.”
His Labour colleague, John Spellar, who is MP for Warley, echoed these views saying that plans for further cuts under the current Government were neither fair on an already stretched police force nor the communities they served.
While David Winnick (Labour, Walsall North) was also supportive of the campaign and said that he and other Labour MPs had repeatedly raised in Parliament the impact of the cuts carried out by the Government.
Conservative MPs Paul Uppal (Wolverhampton) and Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield) were less supportive. The former said forces continued to rise to the challenge of making savings while Mr Mitchell said he was confident that PCCs and Chief Constables would continue to deliver efficiencies but nevertheless he had written to the Home Office in relation to the concerns the Federation expressed.
So, as they say, watch this space and we will keep you updated on progress.
March 4th 2015
We have spoken about the cuts. But what about the consequences? They are bad news.
Thanks to 20% reductions in policing budgets, officer numbers have fallen, complaints against the police have risen and most importantly - victims are being affected. They are telling us they are not being kept informed about their cases and that they feel let down by the criminal justice system.
We are dealing with 2015 crime with 1970s numbers. If these cuts continue, 2,500 front-line officer posts will disappear - taking us to a 40-year low.
No wonder the public are not happy with the service we are providing.
Before the Government had announced its plans to slash policing budgets by a fifth, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) argued the quality of policing services would be affected.
They said the maximum cuts should be around 12 per cent. The Police Federation of England and Wales also voiced its concerns saying something would have to give – the police service could not deliver the same services if funding was so dramatically reduced.
Now, while no-one takes great pleasure in saying so, these fears have been confirmed.
The cuts have consequences; consequences for the police service, for West Midlands Police, for individual officers and staff members and crucially for the communities we serve.
Already in the West Midlands we have seen budget cuts of £146 million, the loss of 1,471 officers since 2010, a 17 per cent reduction in police officer posts – compared to a national average of 11 per cent and it is going to get worse.
Plans are in place to reduce officer numbers by a further 546 by 2016-17 and close 27 of our 41 front desks by the end of the year.
So the public will have to work harder than ever to reach a police officer.
Our Deputy Chief Constable, Dave Thompson, has been quoted in national press expressing his concerns about the ‘extraordinary demands’ placed on the force and the pressure it is under. Neighbourhood patrols - beloved by the public - could be hit.
Meanwhile, the Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson has admitted such drastic reductions in officer numbers would cause problems with policing.
Of course, as a service we are not alone in being hit by cuts, but unlike other services, we can’t say ‘no’. But we are the ones that step into the breech left by mental health support teams, social workers and the ambulance service.
Rather than finding out which parts of our service the Government no longer wants us to operate due to the cuts, we are instead finding that we have extra tasks to take on. This against the growing pressures of cyber crime, terrorism, and firearms offences.
So how exactly do we do more with less? And how do the public feel about the consequences of the cuts?
West Midlands Police Federation
February 12th 2015
Look out for our for Campaign advertisment in the Metro on Tuesday!
February 10th 2015
West Midlands Police is being faced with unprecedented cuts to our policing budget - slashed by more than £146m in the last four years
And sadly there is more to come as the force will lose a further £23m.
For the public of West Midlands Police this means fewer officers. In fact, more than 3,000 officer and staff posts. That’s the size of an entire police force.
And where are the effects being felt? In neighbourhood teams - the lifeblood of policing. The men and women on the front line of protecting you, your families, your homes and your businesses from crime. The number of officers working in communities have been drastically reduced. These officers are the heartbeat of policing, linking in and gaining the trust and confidence of local communities.
Preventing crime, gathering intelligence, safeguarding the vulnerable, neighbourhoods officers are the first port of call for many people. Yet in some areas neighbourhood officers are rarely seen.
Custody suites and front offices have also been severally reduced, or are in the process of being so. There are half as many as there used to be. And their staff are going too - placing more pressure on those left behind. It is not right that those protecting the most vulnerable in society are working in such a pressure cooker. How can they do a better job with less support, less time and more demands on them?
We are seeing the introduction of civilian investigators and custody officers - members of staff doing work once done by warranted detective - and other cheaper alternatives coming into the service to investigate serious crimes and look after those most vulnerable people in society. Yet they do not have the experience and legal authority or powers that police officers have. In my opinion, this is NOT providing the best service possible to our communities. It is policing on the cheap and you, the public, deserve more. It is no exaggeration to say that policing is about making life and death decisions on occasion and it absolutely should not be meddled with.
We fully understand the Chief Constable’s hands are tied and we are all trying to do the best for the public of the West Midlands. However we can only do so much. We cannot do more with less.
But all is not lost. You, the hard working public of West Midlands can make the difference. You need to tell your MPs and prospective MPs about how unfair police cuts are in your area. Tell them the cuts are not right. Tell them you care about your police force. They will listen to you. They want your vote.
West Midlands Police is one of the finest force in the Country, due to its leadership and its very dedicated and hard working staff. However, we are afraid this can only last so long. You can only paper over the cracks before the damage becomes irreparable. Please stop any further damage, to your police service, because it is YOUR police service, before it’s too late.
February 10th 2015
Office of Jack Dromey MP Press Statement on #CutsHaveConsequences
WORST POSSIBLE TIME TO CUT 1471 POLICE OFFICERS IN THE WEST MIDLANDS
The West Midlands Police Federation is right to warn that cuts have consequences
Responding to the launch today by the West Midlands Police Federation on police cuts, Jack Dromey MP, Shadow Policing Minister, said: