A Conservative Party politician has reportedly benefited financially from the cuts to police that Theresa May has presided over. And he happily admits that he’s profiting from the reduction in services.
Buying up our bobbies
Rob Hodkinson is a Tory councillor in Ramsbottom, Greater Manchester. And in January, he was revealed as the mystery buyer of Ramsbottom police station. The building was put up for sale in November 2015 as part of a cost-cutting exercise by Greater Manchester Police (GMP). And Hodkinson snapped up the local station in February 2016 for £226,000. But the details of the sale only emerged in January, when Hodkinson sought planning permission to turn the former station into shops and apartments.
Hodkinson said of his purchase:
I want to remove the eyesore that is the police station and replace it with a building that is keeping with the character of the rest of the buildings in the street. There was a lot of interest at the auction, as the guide price was listed as £50,000, and the bidding on the day was very lively.
However I knew it would sell for much more and was prepared to pay a premium to secure the purchase.
Cut to the bone?
GMP sold Ramsbottom station along with five others to save £100,000 a year in running costs. While Ramsbottom station wasn’t open to the public, it was still used as a base by officers. But after its closure, they were relocated to a room in the local library. At the time, local councillor Ian Bevan said:
The number of police officers patrolling Ramsbottom has reduced in recent years. Whilst we are low-crime town, there are still issues, particularly at night and weekends, and I can envisage that police officers… would rarely be available if a resident turns up at Ramsbottom library.
The cuts made by GMP are endemic of a nationwide issue. Since 2009 in England and Wales, 20,000 police officers have been cut; real terms budgets have been reduced by 18%; total employment in the force reduced by 17.4%; in 2016, the number of officers on sick leave increased by 11.5%; and the number of armed officers has halved [paywall] in the past 15 years. And Tories buying up redundant police stations is not unusual, either.
For example, in 2016 Paddington police station in London was sold by Conservative-led Westminster Council to Berkeley Homes for redevelopment. And the house building company’s chairman is a Tory donor. Since 2010, at least a third of all police stations in England and Wales have, or are due to be, closed.
The revolving door
But Hodkinson’s purchase of Ramsbottom police station and the fate of Paddington are microcosms of a wider problem in government. That of the revolving door between politicians, their decisions (both Tory and New Labour), and profit making. For example, private security company G4S runs Lincolnshire police station and has contracts with the government worth £600m a year. But as Channel 4 News reported, G4S:
has a former government minister, Whitehall advisers and civil servants on its board. These include, former Home Secretary and Defence Secretary John Reid (now Baron Reid of Cardowan), former Met Police Commissioner Lord Condon (who earns £124,600 as a non-Executive Director of G4S), former Prison Governor Tom Wheatley and helpfully for G4S’ energy meter monitoring arm, the former Energy Regulator Claire Spottiswoode is a non-Executive Director (earning £56,800).
The issue of the government’s cuts to the police force has been raised by all opposition parties in the wake of both the Manchester and London terrorist attacks. But May doesn’t appear to think there’s a problem. And it’s of little wonder when politicians from her own party are directly profiting from the sale of our ‘bobbies on the beat’.
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