I agree with the concerns many Walton constituents raise on cuts to the Police. I meet regularly with the Chief Superintendent in our area who fully appreciates the issues you highlight.
I thought it might be helpful to outline some of the interventions I have taken to represent the thoughts of my constituents.
I have spoken in Parliament on a number of occasions over the last five-and-a-half years because the government’s assault on our police has been wholly unacceptable. The situation Merseyside Police now faces is undoubtedly extremely dangerous.
From the outset it should be recognised that despite the cuts from central government, our police have coped tremendously well and provided a first-class service for the people of Merseyside. However, there is no doubt that the force now stands on a precipice. In fact the ability to refer to our police as a “force” is in jeopardy as the cuts affect the ability of its operational effectiveness.
In 2010 Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) concluded that police forces could sustain cuts of 12% to their overall budgets without impacting on frontline services. They were clear that any cut over and above 12% would be detrimental on every facet of the police’s ability to deploy adequate resource.
Unfortunately, although unsurprisingly, the government didn’t listen. Theresa May and David Cameron instead embarked on a 20% cut to police budgets. I voted, along with my Labour colleagues, against these measures. However, the vote was passed and that has meant that Merseyside Police had to make £77 million worth of cuts between May 2010 and May 2015.
The government is now asking Merseyside Police to make a further £48 million in cuts by April 2019. The speculation at the moment is that PCSOs and the Mounted Division of our force will be wiped out. This will result in the loss of 364 PCSOs and 21 Mounted officers.
I have serious concerns about this, because not only were PCSOs an incredibly effective measure brought in by the last Labour government which led to a reduction in crime of 42%, but as the only MP to represent a constituency with two Premier League football clubs in it, I understand how important the Mounted Division is for safeguarding fans on match days. This is a particular concern for me and as a consequence I have written to the Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner and the Sports Minister to raise these issues with them directly.
Further, even if we cut every PCSO and every member of the mounted division, Merseyside Police would still need to find £28million in cuts, meaning that every division including narcotics, forensics, CID, Special Orgainsed Crime, fraud, firearms, dog handlers and domestic violence units would all be facing cuts in their departments.
In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that we would be facing considerable questions over the future of the Merseyside Police force post-2019. Many Chief Constables are warning the government they will not be able to provide anywhere near the same presence as they currently do and be a blue light reactive operation only.
It is important to note that one of the reasons why the cuts are so severe is because George Osborne has committed the government to running a £40billion surplus by the end of this parliament. In other words, he isn’t just satisfied with having the books balanced, he wants £40billion in savings to go on top. Whilst we would all agree this is a noble ambition, the result in real terms is even further cuts to our public services, and the police are fair game as far as the Chancellor is concerned.
I opposed the fiscal charter in Parliament recently. I do not think it is sensible to cut public spending over and above what is absolutely necessary.
Finally, I will be raising this in the House during consideration of the Comprehensive Spending Review and I will be writing to the Home Secretary, Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside and the Sports Minister.
In the meantime I can assure that I will continue to raise issues such as those highlighted by constituents, and a number of other local residents’ groups, in Westminster.
Steve Rotheram MP