Communities and Housing//

Police budgets crisis as crime prevention cut

Written by: Tom Sadler on 31 October, 2012
Filed under Communities and Housing, Justice

Yesterday, Jason Beattie at the Mirror revealed a massive cut to the Crime Prevention budget, funds that would have been used locally by elected Police and Crime Commissioners. This massive shortfall in funding means that many of the elected police chiefs will not be able to properly fulfil the role set out for them.

The budget for Crime Prevention is being slashed by half from around £57million to around £23million. This marks a significant reduction in the amount of money the new elected Commissioners will have at their disposal in fighting crime in their constituencies.

Aside from making the job of the Commissioners that bit harder, the cuts announced leave many of the projects tackling the root causes of crime in communities struggling to make ends meet. Those youth projects, gang prevention schemes and educational outreach programmes face drastic cuts to the vital work they do. Alongside that, money for CCTV cameras and street lighting are also in the firing line.

But this is just the latest in a long-line of decisions which is causing mounting anger and dissatisfaction within the police force. This is incredibly dangerous. With around 88% of the cuts in government spending still to be implemented, the Government needs the police now more than ever.

Of course many of Cameron and his cohort deny this. The ideas of new-right thinkers such as Charles Murray which so permeate this government’s approach deny any causal link between poverty and crime. Of course any sane person knows this to be the ultimate of fallacies.

As the 2011 riots proved, there is almost certainly a link between poverty and inequality and crime. If more people are forced into homelessness and long-term unemployment the rate of crime will rise, and the prospect of another wave of unrest is a spectre which will haunt us.

What is even more concerning is that some of the areas most affected by the Crime Prevention budget cut are those areas which suffered so much from the riots. Birmingham’s budget is to be cut by £1.5million to just over £620,000, Manchester’s from £1million to around £415,000 and Leeds from £1.1million to around £478,000. If the money used to tackle gang violence in these cities disappears, the Government is effectively leaving inner city areas powerless to tackle the spiralling problem of organised violence.

The riots proved the ultimate bravery and sacrifice that police officers make. Senior mismanagement of the situation meant that on the first night of rioting and into the second and third nights, there were simply not enough police officers on the ground to adequately contain the disturbances.

Meanwhile, the Government are cutting the number of police by the thousands. The force has lost an estimated 6,500 frontline police officers since the Government came to power with thousands more desk jobs axed. The news yesterday that the Metropolitan Police are exploring the feasibility of selling New Scotland Yard is a sign of the huge pressures police budgets are facing.

Yvette Cooper, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, put it best:

‘David Cameron and Theresa May are weak on crime and its causes – cutting 15,000 police officers and cutting crime prevention by 60%, too.’

Their relationship with the police force is becoming increasingly fraught. Andrew Mitchell’s now famous outburst at the gates of No.10 cost him his job, but also further antagonised a police force struggling under the stress of spending cuts.

This is lunacy. As the unrest of the 1980s showed, if you are a Government undertaking a severe reduction of the welfare state, you must be prepared for the fallout. From Broadwater Farm to Brixton, from Orgreave to Toxteth, Margaret Thatcher was able to contain simmering anger only because she kept the police content and well-staffed. Without adequate police numbers, the Government run the risk of allowing crime to spiral.

This Government is not able to do that because it is fundamentally inept. From Pastygate to the Budget Omnishambles to the badger cull and now the slashing of the Crime Prevention budget, this Government has shown it is unable to have meaningful reflection and consultation on major issues. What was once the party of law and order has become the party of law and disorder.