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Baroness Smith: David Cameron’s unhappy legacy of police cuts

3 min read

Shadow Home Office Minister Baroness Angela Smith of Basildon examines the Prime Minister’s record as we approach the general election.

Not long after becoming Prime Minister in 2010, David Cameron announced what he said was a new measure of Government success that was quickly nicknamed ‘the Happiness Index’.

He commented: “we’ll start measuring our progress as a country, not just by how our economy is growing, but by how our lives are improving; not just by our standard of living but by the quality of our lives”. And added that this was to ensure “government decisions on policy and spending are made in a balanced way, taking account of what really matters”.


Police tackling crime in partnership with betting shops​


So what are those issues that ‘really matter’, and has the Government passed the test of making those balanced decisions?

Or was this new ‘Happiness Index’ just another woolly concept, alongside the now rarely mentioned ‘Big Society’, where the Prime Minister was seeking to assure the public that the unprecedented level of cuts and his Government’s austerity measures would not impact on the quality of life?

If so, he failed.

One of the key measures in how we view the quality of our lives is how safe and secure we feel in our jobs, our homes and our communities. Yet the unprecedented levels of cuts to policing is threatening the quality of service that the police can provide. 

In Essex, following a loss of 600 officers under this Government, the Police Federation are trying to explain to the public the impact of policing cuts. As the thin blue line gets even thinner and few of us ever see local police around the community, there are fears for the future of community policing.  As one sergeant has put it: “Prior to the cuts I was in charge of a team of 8 PCs.  The area we covered was Tendring and Colchester District.  Following the cuts I now have 4 PCs and have picked up Braintree District as well”.  So you have half the number of officers for a much larger area. 

The police mounted section has been axed, the dog section reduced by 20%, and in a costal county the marine section has lost officers and equipment. Answers to my parliamentary questions reveal that the number of people killed and seriously injured on Essex roads has risen to 750 at the same time as the number of traffic police has been dramatically cut – from 257 in 2010 to just 76 last year. There are no longer any 24 hour police stations in Essex and more station closures are planned. 

This is just a snapshot of the impact on every community across our country. With the loss of 17,000 police officers, 4,000 community based PCSOs and 15,000 police staff, Ministers must be called to account as to how this could ever be seen as ‘taking account of what really matters’.

Community safety really matters and under David Cameron’s Government that sense of well-being and safety that he claimed was so important is now in real danger of being lost.

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Read the most recent article written by Baroness Smith of Basildon - Tribute to Lord Rosser – by Baroness Smith


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