Mixed message over police cuts

IT is ironic that the financial management of South Yorkshire Police should be called into question on the day an evil thug was convicted of killing church organist Alan Greaves who was battered to death in Sheffield as he walked to Midnight Mass last Christmas Eve.

A murder which shocked the whole country because of its senseless brutality, it is absolutely paramount that day-to-day policing costs – including time-consuming murder investigations that are a significant drain on manpower and financial costs – are not compromised by the spending cuts imposed by the Home Office.

Unlike Labour, the Government thinks that this is still achievable in the long term. Both David Cameron and Theresa May, the Home Secretary, used the latest fall in crime figures to show how it is possible to reform a key public service without compromising standards or safety.

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Yet, significantly, the approaches pursued by the South and West Yorkshire forces are among those now being questioned by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary which warns that a short-termist approach to cuts will make it even more difficult to maintain law and order in the future.

The nature of HMIC’s prescriptive intervention is curious. The onset of police and crime commissioners last November was supposed to signal a new era of local decision-making, albeit within nationally-determined parameters.

As such, it will be more difficult for commissioners – and chief constables for that matter – to prove their effectiveness when HMIC is offering them such little flexibility.

That said, this latest report offers a salutary warning that the spending squeeze is here to stay, certainly for the remainder of the decade, and that it would be remiss of individual forces to work in isolation.

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Though Yorkshire’s four constabularies have led the rest of the country in terms of collaborative work – they recognise that criminals are no respecters of artificial force boundaries – it is clear that police leaders are going to have to think outside the box if they’re to continue to meet the public’s expectations and keep the streets safe for all. This will only happen if policing continues to evolve, with an even greater emphasis on preventative crime.

Trains travesty

IT’S not just the trade unions who have every right to be incredulous at the scale of new bonus package awarded to Network Rail’s five top executive directors; all train passengers have a right to question why even more money should be paid to individuals whose basic salaries range from a mere £348,000 to the £577,000 paid to chief executive Dave Higgins.

Network Rail chairman Richard Parry-Jones claims the new deal, which will see the directors share an additional £2m if key performance targets are met, and in an addition to an existing scheme worth £1.2m a year, is indicative of the “exceptional progress” which has been made in the past 12 months in improving the performance of the railways.

It is an argument which is unlikely to find favour outside Network Rail’s boardroom. Passengers continue to endure late-running trains because of longstanding frailties with Yorkshire’s railway infrastructure – the East Coast Main Line appears to be particularly vulnerable to signalling and track faults – while Network Rail was fined £450,000 recently for safety lapses that led to a woman’s death at a level crossing.

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As the NHS braces itself for a new era of scrutiny as Professor Sir Mike Richards, the new chief inspector of hospitals, recruits a crack team of medical experts, patients and carers to judge the performance of doctors and nurses following a succession of scandals, perhaps the same approach needs to be applied to the railway industry which continues to rely on the benevolence of public subsidies in order to function each day.

Given this, surely the time has come for passengers and industry experts to determine whether the bosses of Network Rail, and also the privatised train operators, have earned the right to any bonus?

Parking poser

THERE are many social ills in modern society, ranging from the mobile phone going off during a theatre performance to the lack of respect now afforded to cricket umpires.

Yet there are few greater irritants than the selfish motorist who parks illegally in a disabled-only bay because they’re too lazy to walk a few yards – or who requires two spaces in the supermarket car park because they are too inconsiderate to think of others.

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Even though the police and traffic wardens do have powers to curb this menace, the reality is that they only catch a small proportion of offenders each year.

As such, one has every sympathy with those Doncaster residents who have set up their own Facebook page to post photographs of selfish parking. Already an overnight internet sensation, it can only be hoped that this use of photographic evidence pricks the consciences of some of those drivers who erroneously think that they are the king of the road. For, if it does, th town’s roads are likely to be safer as a consequence.