Last Wednesday, 16th May 2012, Home Secretary Theresa May faced angry boos and shouts of “resign” from police at the Police Federation conference in Bournemouth International Centre. Mrs. May was attempting to defend the government’s budget cuts which, according to the Police Federation, will mean 20% budget cuts and put police officers and the public at risk.
Despite antagonistic media reports, the English Defence League is a strong supporter of the British police force and we have often had cause to praise the efforts that the police have put in to supporting our right to peaceful protest.
It is therefore with some dismay that we note that, in real terms, it is estimated that the government expenditure cuts will result in a reduction of 34,100 police officers, PCSOs, and police staff.
In a July 2011 report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), the Home Office’s own authority responsible for inspecting and reporting on the country’s police forces, cuts in police spending were aimed at making savings of £ 2.1 billion. The report states that some forces will see their budgets cut by up to 19%.
Many police forces are having to make difficult, and often controversial, decisions in order to try and continue to provide essential police services. Changes will include giving PCSOs extended powers of arrest, and in many cases simply replacing trained, skilled police officers with PCSOs. Despite attempts to compensate for cuts by reorganisation and restructuring, the fact remains that the number of frontline police will drop by at least 2%.
On top of the planned cuts, the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will, according to police chiefs, require the largest peacetime policing operation ever. It is estimated that around 12,000 police will be on duty across the UK, with 9,000 on duty in London alone. Policing the Games would be a major challenge at the best of times, but given the continued threat of Islamic terrorism – for which the Games is an extremely attractive target – we can certainly understand why the police are not particularly happy to hear that they will have to make due with fewer and fewer resources.
There is no disputing that these are difficult economic times and we understand the government’s need to get the nation’s finances back on their feet, but the police force needs to be confident that the government will provide it with the resources it needs. If the reception Teresa May received in Bournemouth is anything to go by, the government is a long way from building that confidence.
Cost cutting is painful, and can sometimes be difficult to accept. But it is all the more difficult to accept when we look more closely at where the government is spending its budget. Why, for instance, is the government increasing the overseas aid budget by a staggering 34%, from £5.7 billion to £11.4 billion? Why are we sending £279 million a year to India, £203 million to Pakistan, and a mind-numbing £1,269 million to help fund the European Commission’s development programme?
But it’s not just national government that must take the blame, local governments are just as guilty. Thousands of pounds disappear in support of the UAF and other ‘anti-fascist’ organisations, and that’s before you consider the vast sums of money spent on policing these and other political and extremist organisations.
If cuts have to be made, the government needs to look carefully at the interests of its own people. We’ve heard precious little about what the government is doing to combat Islamic extremism, but plenty about what we shouldn’t say if we don’t want to be accused of being intolerant or ‘Islamophobic’. This is symptomatic of the fact that the government is in serious danger of forgetting about the people that it is supposed to represent.
All members of parliament should ask themselves a simple question: what is the greater concern, protecting our country from the continued threat of Islamic extremism and terrorism, or increasing foreign aid? When the government is willing to cut police budgets by £2 billion whilst spending nearly £6 billion more on foreign aid, maybe Mrs. May should be happy it was only insults that the police were throwing at her.