UNISON’s new report Austerity Audit reveals the extent of the damage done to council services in England since 2010,and the people that provide them, as well to police forces. The report provides further evidence that by imposing swingeing cuts to the budgets of police forces across the UK, the government has put policing in crisis and placed neighbourhoods and communities at risk.
Austerity Uncovered notes that the government has already cut funding to local councils by £12.5bn or 37 per cent since May 2010 – the equivalent of £232 for every person in the country, and calls into question government claims in regard to future levels of spending cuts to government departments.
Among the report’s findings are that one in four (4,430) police and community support officers (PCSOs) have been lost since 2010. UNISON’s previous survey of their PCSO members in December 2013 found that there were then 9,000 volunteers carrying out the work of police staff, while between March 2010 and September 2013, the number of PCSOs in England were cut by 22 per cent.
The report notes Home Office statistics, which show that between 31 March 2010 and 31 September 2014:
- The number of police officers fell by 16,139, meaning that there were only 9 police officers in September 2014 for every 10 in March 2010.
- The number of PCSOs fell by 4,430, leaving only 7.5 PCSOs in September 2014 for every 10 in March 2010.
- The number of police staff (excluding PCSOs) fell by 15,506, so there were only 8 police staff (excluding PCSOs) in September 2014 for every 10 in March 2010.
Austerity Audit also gives detail on the actual numbers of police staff and officers lost in each police force in England, as well police station closures.
The growing, and increasingly public furor over the impact of spending cuts to police forces has led Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe to reflect in a recent speech, that police forces will have to “pick and choose” what they prioritise.
UNISON National Officer Pete Challis, writing about the report on Touchstone, argues, “we believe our local communities will be unrecognisable by 2020 if the approach over the last parliament should continue into the next. Local government desperately needs some respite from the austerity axe.”