Posted: Monday 2nd October 2017
In September, once again, police officers ran towards the smoke, the injured and unknown danger to help people in trouble. Across the land, officers were back on high alert as the threat level returned to critical.
As members of the public we have come to expect nothing less. You cannot buy this type of courage, you cannot force this extraordinary integrity, but we can and should reward it.
Our officers and staff fully deserve a pay rise. It is a positive step that police officers will receive the anticipated 1% pay increase plus a one-off 1% bonus for 2017-18. But those police officers have lost more than £6,000 per year as a result of austerity and wage restraint. Welcome though it may be, a 1% one-off bonus does not balance their pay-packets.
However, as Police and Crime Commissioner I must also ensure that the police budget is balanced and the cost of that bonus landed, unannounced, with the force, putting further pressure on our already over-stretched budget.
In Nottinghamshire the extra cost this year is £600,000. Next year the unfunded rise goes up to £1.2m. Inflation, currently running at 2.9%, must also be taken into account.
We have worked incredibly hard in Nottinghamshire to find the means to recruit 200 additional officers in 2017/18 and I don’t want to see that put at risk. I will continue to press the Government to provide us with the means to pay for this and any other pay increases.
We are repeatedly told that the police budget is ‘protected’ with the flat cash settlement. Now, the UK Statistics Authority has confirmed what we always knew to be the case, government statements about police force funding are misleading. A flat cash settlement means real term cuts. Since 2015 police force budgets across England and Wales have reduced progressively by £200m each year.
Not surprisingly, police officer numbers are at their lowest point for 30 years with 20,000 officer posts lost since 2010. To make matters worse, police budgets have been cut by £2.3bn, or 25%, since 2010.
Put bluntly, it’s now the time for the Government to play fair with the police and ensure safety for the public.
And the cracks are showing.
Police numbers are at their lowest for 30 years. The number of officers dedicated to neighbourhood policing is diminishing. The demands on the police are, like crime itself, serious and complex.
Terrorism is a real and immediate threat; cyber-crime and on-line fraud is rising rapidly; rape and serious sexual assault reports have doubled in some parts of the country. Calls, particularly those to 999, for police assistance are increasing.
There is good news. Stop and search levels in Nottinghamshire are amongst the lowest in the country, with resultant positive outcomes at 60%. Knives are being confiscated each day. My Youth Commission has worked with the police to produce the only film we’ve come across that looks at these complex issues from both the young people’s and the police perspective.
I firmly believe that our police should reflect our community and we’re working hard to employ more black and Asian officers and staff.
People in a mental health crisis now receive professional medical care, not custody.
But more is needed which is why I’m continuing to press the government not just for fair pay for police officers but more importantly for fair funding for the police service.
At the end of the day, all we want for our families and neighbours is to feel safe on the streets and in the communities where we live.
Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner