#Policing – Hard times ahead but still got my fingers crossed

Police Vauxhall Astra

At a point when British policing actually needs to display a united front, probably now more than ever before, elements of the police in England and Wales are (unwittingly) placing their heads on the government’s chopping block of cuts and so-called public sector reform…

Immediately after the Chancellor’s recent budget delivery, many within policing breathed a sigh of relief, no more cuts to policing, thankfully. There was still going to be a cap on public sector pay rises of 1%, extended for a further year to 2015-16. In addition, a think-tank (and we all have an opinion about them) suggested that; “any further spending cuts by government departments have in effect been put off until 2015-16” (perhaps not coincidentally until after the next election).

…austerity will tighten from 2015-16 as public sector worker National Insurance contributions rise sharply…(Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies)

The usual budget bitter pill was sweetened slightly by small concessions such as, the cancellation of a fuel duty increase and the reduction in tax on beer however; it appears that any light relief and additional breathing space, which most of us were thankful for, was even more short-lived than many of us had (naively) expected.

The Armed Forces and the police will face further spending cuts because the Coalition will not sanction any more reductions to welfare payments, senior Treasury minister Danny Alexander has warned…(telegraph.co.uk)

The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) quickly responded to the Daily Telegraph interview with Dany Alexander by saying;

There are clear indications of a disagreement within government on where further spending cuts should fall. The first duty of government is the protection of its citizens, and as we approach a spending review which will impact on the next election, the use of policing as a political football is outrageous. Any further cuts to policing budgets will inevitably lead to less protection for our communities despite our officers’ best efforts. There is only so much we can do…(Steve White, Vice-Chair PFEW)

With all the austerity turmoil set to be in place for some time yet, the recent decision by the Constables Central Committee (CCC) of the PFEW is, in my opinion, a little short-sighted to say the least.  Despite understanding the angst of many Constables across England and Wales, now is not the time for any fractures within police staff associations.

In deciding to suspend funding to the PFEW joint fund, in relation to their views on the decision about an internal independent review of PFEW, the CCC may be making a stand and adding substance to their voice of concern however; their stand is probably a dangerous one. It is also a move which actually plays into the hands of the government’s ‘divide and conquer’ methodology!

Things ain’t going to get any easier any time soon… We all need to address not only the negative impacts upon our jobs but also, the bigger picture of how those impacts are (potentially) damaging our society as a whole. Any fragmentation of what is mostly (arguably) a united and strong voice will actually prove to be counter-productive in the long-term. Now is really not the time for internal wranglings or overt militancy and posturing, simply to make a point.

As Syreeta Lund, Editor of POLICE, the monthly magazine of the PFEW pointed out recently; these are undoubtedly Uncomfortable Times not just for policing but also, many other areas of the public sector and our wider society.

For the first time in my lifetime I have seen the proliferation of food banks – people who are in such poverty that they are turning up for boxes of groceries because they cannot afford to feed themselves and their families. The economic climate is bleak…(Syreeta Lund)

With all the economic and organisational crap that is currently taking place; is fragmentation of any group that seeks to challenge our government about (arguably) misguided policy, really a viable or sensible solution? It simply allows that government to proceed unchecked, often to the benefit of the few at the expense of the majority.

As the provision and management of policing services becomes increasingly difficult and is subjected to even greater scrutiny and financial constraint, thankfully some of the federated ranks arch-enemies are becoming a lot less insular and self-serving in their approach to many of the issues involved. Various members of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Police Superintendent’s Association of England & Wales (PSAEW) are now thankfully, all be it belatedly, starting to look at the bigger policing picture.

Ch Supt Irene Curtis, President Elect of the PSAEW, recently gave an interview to the Federation’s Police Magazine. She spoke about the need for changes to police ‘culture’ and also called for changes to the predominant and damaging  ‘bean-counting’ management that currently exists within policing. I have followed Irene Curtis for some time now on Twitter (@barrackslass), much of what she has to say makes a refreshing change and (in my opinion) tends to bode well for the future management of policing.

Now that some of the senior ranks are finally starting to see that our police service isn’t simply a conduit for their personal career aspirations and jobs, perhaps there is a greater understanding of how professional and effective policing underpins and the quality of life we all hope to enjoy within our society. We deserve to receive the best possible police service, we all pay handsomely enough to hold that expectation!

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