Chancellor Philip Hammond’s claim during last month’s Budget that “austerity is coming to an end” was greeted with scepticism by both political opponents and those on the frontline of public services. Now the Government’s new approach to spending faces an early – and vital – litmus test on the issue of police funding.
The stark warning from Dee Collins, chief constable of West Yorkshire Police, that under-strain police budgets are now reaching a “tipping point” while crime levels continue to rise comes amid intense scrutiny of police performance levels and funding.
Police funding has fallen by 19 per cent in real terms since 2010, while officer numbers have decreased by more than 20,000 over the same period. Meanwhile, the number of arrests in England and Wales has halved in a decade, while recorded crime has risen across a number of categories including murders and knife-related offences.
The connection between falling staffing levels and rising crime was admitted by Home Secretary Sajid Javid yesterday, as he said police numbers are an important part of tackling the “disease” of violent attacks which have seen five people stabbed to death in less than a week in London.
Mr Javid said it was time to take a “fresh look” at ensuring the nation’s police forces have the resources they need. This must now become a Government priority.
Properly-resourced police forces keep society safe and discourage offenders from feeling they can commit crimes with impunity. Too many people now know the grim feeling of becoming victims of crime in which perpetrators are never even identified, let alone brought to justice. The Government appears to listening, at last, to the warnings of police chiefs. But fine words must be backed up with meaningful action to arrest the situation.