NEWS COMMENT: If we must have police cuts we need to know exactly why
Let's be honest, who really likes paying more tax?
But we are sure that the majority of us would like to know that the tax we pay out of our hard-earned salaries is spent in an appropriate manner.
Today The News reveals that nearly 160 police jobs are to be axed as part of a new £7m round of cuts. And this comes after Hampshire’s police and crime commissioner, Michael Lane, asked for an increase of £12 a year on the council tax bill for a band D property. However, he is also increasing his office’s budget by £440,000 for ‘essential staff.’
Of course the commissioner needs staff to fulfil the duties of his office – despite the perception of some, this was never meant to be a one-person job. And while one could argue that frontline officers are vital, it is simplistic to declare that all backroom staff are unnecessary. Large organisations all need managers and support staff.
But that being said, it is understandable how serving officers could see it as a bitter pill to swallow, that at the same time cuts are announced in their ranks, that the PCC is advertising for extra staff.
John Apter, Hampshire Police Federation chairman, is calling for greater transparency in how the increase in council tax was sold to the public when it was put out to public consultation. As Mr Apter says: ‘The public should have known exactly what any increase was going to be spent on.’
And it’s a fair point. Would the public have been so willing to accept an increase in council tax if they knew frontline officers would be cut while the commissioner added to his own staff?
Two will go from the marine unit as part of the cuts. Fifteen from the dog unit, and 20 from the roads policing unit will also go.
None of these cuts is likely to sit well with the public.
At a time when the thin blue line is more taut than ever, there are very justifiable concerns about any reduction in police.
The days of the ‘bobby on the beat’ are long gone and it would be naive to think we are going to return to that, but we do need absolute transparency to help us understand the reasoning behind these decisions.