When MPs and Ministers hold debates about policing, it is not unusual for them to refer to the bravery and leadership of Police Officers who run into places of danger in order to protect other people or who take decisions and impose their judgements on people in order to avoid greater problems taking place. It is sometimes hard to know what is going on when one is told to take a different route or remain in ones vehicle or building even if this seems illogical at the time, it is sometimes only much later that the truth of the bravery and leadership becomes clear. Tragically some MPs can be very critical of police forces and indeed the one who gets mentioned below has done so on far too many occasions.
The debate about policing that this blog focuses on took place on Monday 3rd December and the subject was not regarding operational policing but police funding which arose following similar questions from five Labour MPs who asked Nick Hurd the policing Minister the following question “What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of the level of funding for police forces” Nicks response before the rest of the debate took places was “The Government understand that police demand has changed and that there is increased pressure from changing crime. Taxpayers are investing an additional £460 million this year in the police system, including income from council tax precepts. We are reviewing police spending power ahead of the provisional funding settlement to be announced later in December.” Now this answer is not a new answer as Nick used almost the same words back on Monday 19th November “That is why we are increasing total investment in the police system by over £460m in 2018-19, of which more than £280m from increased council tax precept will go direct to forces to spend locally” It is always encouraging when Ministers acknowledge that when they spend public money, that they are taking money supplied by Taxpayers and spending it (or perhaps investing it) based on their decisions. It is best that they don’t claim that ‘we are making investments’ as that could be assumed to be a political we, rather than a public we.
However once he had answered the first question, the five Labour MPs and some other MPs took part in a short debate which was also contributed to by the MP for East Worthing and Shoreham (and also Sompting and Lancing). Now Tim Loughton on occasions has been deeply critical of Sussex Police and so it was good that he took the time to speak positively about their work:
TL: “Sussex has faced severe pressures in funding its police numbers, so our police and crime commissioner bravely urged a high increase in the police precept in order to recruit 200 additional officers each year for the next four years. That amount has been wiped out by the reassessment of the pension requirement over the next few years, such that we will not be able to recruit any more without digging into reduced funds. How are we going to get extra police officers?”
NH: “I join my hon. Friend in saluting the leadership of Katy Bourne, who, like most PCCs, is either protecting or increasing the number of police officers as a result of the settlement we took through Parliament this year. We have debated the issue of the increase in pension costs. The Treasury has made it clear that it is going to contribute to part of the cost. The rest of the solution will be evident in the police funding settlement.”
If people like Tim and Nick want to credibly debate bravery in the working lives of people who are involved in police forces or indeed any other form of public services, then they will rarely if ever use such words in the context of people who set budgets. As for demonstrating leadership, we have to remember as no doubt Tim will that when she was elected in 2012, Katy stated unequivocally (as shown above on the bottom bullet point) that freezing the police precept was one of her promises. This was not brave or even a demonstration of leadership as the Tory Government policy in 2012 was to freeze all Council taxes including Police precepts. Had Katy had the wisdom to challenge this, given how the funding was being stripped out, she might not have been so well supported by the local parties who helped to make her campaign a success, but she would have ensured that funding for Sussex Police would have been less short of money than it was. Indeed had she had the boldness and leadership to stand up and challenge Theresa May at the time and demand that cuts in policing were reversed or ended, that would have been a way of showing real leadership. However as the image above shows, Katy and Theresa were keen to support one another just as Katy has done via twitter over the last 24 hours. The challenge of bringing party politics into policing is something some of us still see as very dangerous, even if Tim, Nick, Katy and Theresa see things very differently!