The Budget is remarkable for what it fails to mention. I listened carefully to the Chancellor’s statement, and was really worried not to hear a single mention of policing. Funding increases for the police were a staple of previous Budgets. Under the previous Labour Government, we witnessed strong investment in the police; consequently, in many areas crime fell to the lowest levels in generations. Sadly, that investment in the determined fight against crime now appears to be consigned to the past.
With a funding crisis in the NHS, adult social care, local government and many other areas of the public sector, the police are one more victim of this Government. The police should be fighting crime, not fighting for funding. The Chancellor has offered no respite to the culture of cuts that has gripped every police force in the country. The police have faced multi-year budget cuts, which has meant plummeting numbers of frontline officers.
West Yorkshire police, which serve my constituency, Bradford South, have not been immune to the cuts. Since 2010, their budget has been cut by nearly a third, which amounts to £147 million. The Government think the police can weather the cuts by trimming budgets, tackling waste and shrinking the back office, all with no impact on frontline services. This is nonsense. The challenges can be met only through frontline cuts, so further frontline reductions in policing are now unavoidable.
West Yorkshire police have 2,000 fewer officers and support staff. They are under-resourced and understaffed. Let us be clear about this: fewer police officers means that people are less safe, and people feel less safe.