Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Read it and Weep

Cambridgeshire police have been publicising a new feature on their website, allowing members of the public to help them to decide how to respond to impending budget cuts - you can find it at http://www.cambs.police.uk/yourpolicebudget/calculator.asp

Remarkably every single spending choice implies a cut in funding means a cut to frontline services.

Where on earth are all the options to cut the indirect costs of running the police service?

Scrap generous early retirement settlements, and change the rules of the final salary pension scheme so it is more in line with the majority of schemes available to private sector employees - nope, missed that option.

Don't fill in millions of forms everytime anything happens.

Scrap most of the budget for diversity officers and the press and communications team.

Look at what the really important outcomes are of having a police service, and stop doing all the things that don't help towards these.

When you read the 'options' they do offer, despair only increases. Under the heading 'Local officers patrolling your neighbourhood', there is:

'A dedicated policing team for each neighbourhood but their resources are limited'

As a result of the budget settlement, I would like to welcome Cambridgeshire police to reality - resources are _always_ limited - the fact that central government has acted as if they aren't for years doesn't make it so - as today's and tomorrow's taxpayers are finding out. The suggestion is that having no officers patrolling the streets might be an option - or that if we just spend another £4m (presumably feasible if the government stopped its pesky fiscal responsibility and kept increasing budgets), we would be back up to a previously happy scenario of neighbourhood policing where resources were something other than limited.

Or how about this one in the section 'Investigating 'volume crime' such as burglary, vehicle crime and violence':

'All crimes are recorded, but there is limited capacity to attend and investigate scenes of crime'

is this
a) the cheapest of the five options presented, costing tuppence happenny and a bag of nuts on the grounds it appears to promise to do pretty much nothing of consequence to the victims or perpetrators of crime?
b) the middle option of 5 at a cost of a mere £20m per annum?

You guessed it!

How much do we have to spend on the criminal justice system to have a police force that sees its job as identifying the bad guys and handing them over to the courts, the courts see their job as protecting the generally law abiding, and the prison system sees its job as deterring others from crime, reducing people's dependency on drugs and alcohol, and generally turning people away from crime? The whole thing just seems very broken.

Every private sector organisation on the planet regularly has years in which its absolute income in cash terms decreases - they cope - in fact they frequently manage to increase productivity such that their useful outputs increase.

I don't want to know that someone has spent part of the police budget putting together a survey designed to make fatuous points about the effects of budget cuts, and reinforcing the point that they appear to have absolutely no imagination when it comes to changing how they do things to meet the same policing objectives at lower cost.

As a Councillor, I once spent a two hour meeting trying to get the police to actually do some policing around speeding enforcement on residential roads, and it seemed like most of the meeting was spent listening to bleating about how little time, resources or enthusiasm they had for doing this, despite Councillors making it a neighbourhood policing priority.

My response was - why don't you tell us what resources are available, and we can discuss how best to use them to meet the objectives that my constituents are concerned about. I might as well have been speaking Chinese.

Roll on directly elected police chiefs - meanwhile I think I need to lie down with a cold towel over my head for a while.

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