The government must not ‘sleepwalk into disaster’ by inflicting more cuts on the police service in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, the Police Federation has warned.
The warning comes ahead of Chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement on Wednesday (25 November) in which he is expected to announce further sweeping cuts to public spending – including the police service – over the next five years.
In a letter sent to the Home Secretary over the weekend, Steve White, chair, Police Federation of England and Wales, urged the government to reconsider any planned reduction to the police budget and warned her not to ‘put a price on public safety’.
He said: ‘We all need to work together to combat terrorism, but pulling the rug from under the police service will not do this. Government must not sleepwalk into disaster.
‘While we welcomed the announcement of an additional £2billion funding and recruitment plans for an extra 1900 staff for MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, we were bitterly disappointed that there was no mention of policing. The cuts have so far resulted in the loss of 17,000 police officers and almost the equivalent number of support staff. The impact of this is already being felt across communities and officers are telling us they are struggling to cope as it is. Any further cuts could seriously jeopardise public safety.’
Mr White cited a National Police Chiefs Council letter to Mrs May last week which stated that any further budget cut would ‘reduce very significantly’ the ability of the police service to deal with a terrorist attack on a scale of that witnessed across Paris.
He added: ‘As Home Secretary you are aware of the very real threat we face and the resources needed within the intelligence services and the police service to try to prevent such attacks in this country.
‘You are also aware of the valuable local intelligence that police officers have gathered in communities through the good work undertaken by neighbourhood policing teams. It is through these relationships, the trust they build with the public and local community leaders, that information has been secured which has prevented a number of terrorist attacks in this country.
‘In recent days, police officers have contacted me in droves following the Prime Minister’s statement during Prime Minister’s Questions that there has been an increase in the number of neighbourhood policing officers across the country.
‘We know that police numbers have fallen and this is the not the reality officers see, as they are pulled away from neighbourhood policing teams to deal with 24/7 emergency calls. Indeed, many chief officers have publicly stated that they are having to reduce neighbourhood policing teams as resources dwindle. To suggest that all is well with community policing is disingenuous. This avenue to good local information, which could help prevent attacks, is closing.’
Mr White added: ‘We believe the public would rather the police service was able to continue to prevent this kind of terrorist attack on our shores, rather than attempt to pick up the pieces after a heinous act. We must do all that is necessary to prevent such an attack. Now is not the time for party politics; we must not put political policy before public protection.
‘The Government must urgently review any plans to further reduce officer numbers through more reductions to the police budget over the coming years. We cannot, and must not, put a price on public safety.