ALTHOUGH it is metropolitan police forces which have suffered the biggest cuts in funding, the impact on predominantly rural forces such as North Yorkshire should not be under-estimated. Its budget has been reduced by 14 per cent and fewer officers cover 3,500 square miles of rural terrain.
It is a task made even harder by the increased prevalence – and awareness – of mental illness that has led to police having to devote more time to searching for, and then assisting, the vulnerable. Time-consuming work, it is being further compromised in North Yorkshire by the short-sighted decisions to scale back on the provision of places of safety.
Opened in 2012, such suites were supposed to support the police across the country and four such facilities were created in the north of this county. Yet the centre in Northallerton has already fallen victim to cuts and there are now proposals to close the service in Harrogate.
Not only will this place an even greater burden on police officers who will, inevitably, be left to pick up the pieces when the law-abiding public expect them to be patrolling the streets and apprehending criminals, but it reaffirms the view that rural areas continue to be regarded as an after-thought by the Government and other key agencies.
This, in itself, is criminal. For the consequence of these latest cutbacks, if approved, could be even more police officers requiring treatment for stress at a time when Lisa Winward, the Chief Constable of North Yorkshire, has warned that traumatised officers are already waiting too long for the adequate support that they, too, need. The irony...