In May 2015, Theresa May gave a controversial speech to the Police Federation, accusing it of scaremongering over the impact of her cuts to forces across Britain. Just two years later, the Police Federation predictions May denounced as “crying wolf” have come true. And this failure in judgement cost Britain dearly.
The 20 May 2015 speech was covered extensively at the time as May showing her Iron Lady credentials. As the BBC reported:
The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has made an uncompromising speech to the Police Federation.
She warned the union, which represents rank and file officers in England and Wales, that if it does not reform, the government will impose change.
She also announced that public funding, which currently stands at nearly £200,000 a year, is to be withdrawn.
Police officers had warned that forces had been cut so extensively that they would be unable to respond to a major attack on UK soil. They said that the army would have to be drafted in to support. May responded:
The Federation warned that spending reductions mean that we’ll be forced to adopt a paramilitary style of policing in Britain. Today, you said that neighbourhood police officers are an endangered species.
I have to tell you that this kind of scaremongering does nobody any good.
Just two years later, it happened. Police forces do not have the numbers to conduct the extensive patrols required as the UK terror threat reaches ‘critical’. In the wake of the Manchester bombing, UK armed forces are now patrolling British streets.
The chair of the Police Federation had strong words for May and her government:
Troops on the streets from tomorrow, not something we should be seeing. @PFEW_HQ members will be front and centre. Thank goodness.
— Steve White (@PFEW_Chair) May 23, 2017
Will we learn the lessons of recent events and realise that policing is the job of the police, resources the job of government?
— Steve White (@PFEW_Chair) May 24, 2017
The impact of austerity on the police
Since the Conservatives came to power in coalition in 2010, police forces across the country have suffered major cuts. And as a result, there are now 20,000 fewer police offices in the UK than there were in 2009. That is a 14% drop in less than a decade. As Police Federation chairman Steve White told the BBC:
Whichever way you look at it, the figures are deeply worrying and disappointing…
The increased demand is taking its toll. The figures highlight increased levels of sickness across officers in England and Wales, illustrating the intense pressures they face. This cannot be allowed to continue.
At a time when safety and security of the public is at the top of the political agenda, it is time to refocus priorities and invest further in the police.
A briefing from the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners states that planned budget cuts will hurt even more. Their analysis suggests that police staffing levels could fall by a further 17% to approximately 100,000 by 2020 – the lowest level since the mid-1970s. The government will also cull civilian posts, requiring remaining officers to fulfil back office roles too.
In contrast, Labour would block £3bn in planned tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens in order to increase the numbers of all 43 police forces in England and Wales. Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott has laid her case out in a column for The Independent.
Theresa May failed to take the advice of police. She dismissed their professional advice as ‘crying wolf’. And Britain is paying the price. In the 8 June general election, Britain can turn the tables, and leave May holding the bill.
– Those who are concerned about loved ones or anyone who may have been in the area at the time of the attack can call this emergency number: 0800 096 0095.
– For more coverage on the attack, see here.
Featured image via YouTube Screengrab