12:42, September 12 25 0 theguardian.com

2018-09-12 12:42:12
Reorganising the police would save us millions

I note the Police Superintendents’ Association has drawn attention to a UK police structure in 2018 that in effect is no longer fit for purpose (‘Police emergency’, 10 September). Not unconnected, a few weeks ago the chief constable of West Midlands admitted his force sometimes provides a poor service. I think most readers would agree that this probably applies to all UK forces nowadays. Hardly surprising, perhaps, when police budget cuts have reduced UK officers by 10,000 since 2010. However, a perhaps glaringly obvious solution exists to change this.

In 2005, the then HM chief inspector of constabulary published an acclaimed report, Closing the Gap, that said the existing 43-force UK structure was “no longer fit for purpose” to meet the demands of the 21st century. The report argued in favour of sustainably reducing the number of police forces to better group expertise and also save costs. On which point, the average pay of a chief constable today is £163,000, deputies and assistants £130,000 and £104,000 and police and crime commissioners about £100,000. This amounts to 43 discrete and highly expensive police command hierarchies – already considered unfit for purpose over a decade ago.

The cost benefits of moving to far fewer but larger/strategic forces would be enormous (while retaining local structures). In 2005 such savings were predicted to be up to £2.25bn over 10 years (equivalent to at least £3.2bn today). Sufficient to put back many PC numbers lost since 2010 – without costing the Home Office a penny more than now and providing a more effective pan-UK service.

Having served as a senior police officer in both the largest and one of the smallest forces in the country and today routinely seeing the consequences in our courts of fewer operational police numbers, I cannot understand why successive governments fail to grasp the nettle and at long last reorganise the police, as clearly recommended 13 years ago.

Peter Power JP

Lyndhurst, Hampshire

The Home Office spokesman replying to the National Audit Office report on the government’s running of the police service (Report, 11 September) claims that “the report does not recognise the strengths of PPCs and chief constables leading on day-to-day policing matters”. He doesn’t recognise the extent of the cuts in police budgets over the last eight years with their impact on staffing. Yet another example of the pitiful performance of the Home Office under successive secretaries of state.

Jeremy Beecham

Labour, House of Lords

So yet another story emerges of the police being unable to do their job because of a shortage of manpower. A few weeks ago I went to a protest at the site of a shale-gas test-drilling rig. I was one of six people, all middle-aged, respectable and law-abiding. On duty there were eight police officers. The routine at the site is that the lorries leave to pick up aggregate, returning about an hour later; they then take about about 20 minutes to unload before leaving again. For the hour they are gone, the eight police officers sit in their vans, parked about 100 metres away. While we were there, two police liaison officers arrived, chatted to each other (and no one else) for half an hour, and then left. The road that passes the site has a temporary and widely ignored speed limit of 30mph; when asked why they weren’t enforcing it, one of the police officers replied that that wasn’t what they were there for. Another example: the bitterly opposed (by a huge majority) badger cull is about to start again, which will require vast amounts of police time, escalating the cost of each badger killed to (literally) thousands of pounds. If the government listened to the will of the people and abandoned both these and other deeply unpopular policies, vast amounts of police time could be freed up to fight actual crime.

Colin Harrison

Chesterfield, Derbyshire

John Harris points to the iniquity of proper policing being provided solely for wealthy buyers (The growth of private policing is eroding justice for all, 10 September). Let us remember, though, that “justice for all” has already been much damaged by government policies since 2010. The radical cuts in legal aid have meant that many people have been unable to go to court to secure justice, let alone, if in court, being properly represented. British ministers frequently say we are “all equal before the law”, but that is clearly empty rhetoric given that most people are unable to get their grievances brought before the law.

Peter Cave

London

John Harris is absolutely right to highlight that many demands on policing are ineffably social – I recall a mock police answerphone doing the rounds a few years ago, where options included requesting the police to “raise your children” and “instantly restore order to a situation that took years to deteriorate” – it no longer seems to be a joke.

DCI Louise Fleckney

Broughton, Northamptonshire

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