Teresa has secured a Parliamentary debate for Tuesday 5 July to discuss how Government cuts are impacting police forces and police officers. Ahead of the debate, she has had the following article published by ePolitix:
Recently I met a young police officer at one of my constituency surgeries. He had asked for an appointment to speak to me because he is concerned for his career and for the general morale of the police force in light of current budget cuts. The government is cutting 20 per cent from the policing budget in real terms by 2014/15. This will mean the loss of 12,000 police officers and another 16,000 staff jobs will go. The government says the budget cut will not impact front-line policing, yet we won’t be able to properly scrutinise this because the Home Office doesn’t have an agreed definition of what constitutes the ‘front-line’.
Her Majesty’s Chief Inspectorate of Constabulary says that the maximum cut the police service can sustain before affecting the level of service the public receives is 12 per cent. The fact the government is cutting far beyond this is very worrying and I know many police officers are concerned about the impact on crime levels and public safety. Yet I think it is also very important that we talk about the effect the government’s cuts agenda will have on the police officers themselves.
Police officers up and down the country are angry about the budget cuts, attacks on their terms and conditions and changes to their pensions following the recent Winsor report into police pay and conditions and the Hutton review into public sector pensions. Police officers are unable to strike and many feel they don’t have a voice to enable them to fight back. I hope that my Westminster Hall debate will give them the opportunity to see their case put to government. I will be talking about how police officers today are facing a 2 year pay freeze, rising inflation and a real terms pay cut of up to £4,000. There are concerns that this will prompt many police officers to decide to leave the Force. In a recent Police Federationsurvey 9 out of 10 police officers who responded said they feared their colleagues would leave because they will be unable to make ends meet.
Being a police officer is not an easy job, the hours are long and unsociable and often not conducive to family life. Police officers also suffer assaults and injuries in the line of work that can have a lasting effect on them and their families. It is not a job where you can clock-off at 5pm. Many officers are sources of advice and support for their neighbours, friends and family at all hours.
Police officers make sacrifices to their own personal lives because they want to serve the community, but also in the understanding that they will be fairly compensated for doing a dangerous and demanding job. That is only fair. The expectation of a reasonable retirement income has also been an important tool for recruitment and retention in the police forces. Changes like the switch in the indexing of public sector pensions from the Retail Price Index (RPI) to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) will reduce most public pensions by a significant amount. I am against the switch and have not been convinced by the government’s arguments in favour of it. I think everyone deserves a decent pension, but especially police officers given the risks and sacrifices inherent in the job.
Current morale in the police force is very low, the detrimental effects the government’s cuts will have on police forces and individual officers need to be brought to the attention of Home Office ministers. As one police officer says, “this is not about fairness, it’s about saving the largest amount of money in the shortest amount of time and hang the consequences for those involved, Police and public”. I will be pressing ministers to look at the bigger picture.