Many Police Officers have got in touch with me regarding the Winsor Review and their policing concerns, so I wanted to post the following response.
Thank you for your correspondence regarding the Winsor Review.
Like you I am very concerned at the Tory-led government’s approach to policing. This government is only interested in cutting police officers and not crime – front loaded cuts of 20% to the police force is leading to the loss of 16,000 officers.
Labour voted against Government police cuts in Parliament this year and support Labourâ€™s more proportionate cuts plan of 12 per cent – shown by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate to be deliverable without impacting on frontline services, and supported by work done by Labour in Government.
I am also worried about the Government’s chaotic reforms which are undermining British policing.
Policing clearly needs to be open to reform and innovations like neighbourhood policing have helped to reduce crime by over 40 per cent in recent years. Under Labour there were more officers on the beat, more powers, stronger community partnerships to prevent crime and stronger action to tackle antisocial behaviour.
We also support further reform. As Ministers have refused to set up a Royal Commission we have asked Lord Stevens, former Metropolitan Police Commissioner to chair an Independent Commission on the Future of Policing and to set out a long term plan for policing in England and Wales. We welcome the fact that so many police officers and policing experts across the country have already agreed to contribute.
But instead of building a consensus around positive reforms, David Cameron and Theresa May are continuing to undermine the police force. They have set out no positive vision for the future of policing. Instead policing is facing a perfect storm with the scale of cuts alongside fragmented and contradictory reforms. Rather than working with the police on reform, this Government has been intent on picking a fight and as a result morale has been shattered.
With regard to the Winsor report there are over 120 recommendations which the Home Secretary has agreed to take forward as a matter of urgency.
We believe the Home Secretary’s overall approach, to endorse the report without question, is wrong. Pay and conditions should be debated to support skills and professional development. However there are a number of key areas where we have concerns.
The Government is not doing enough to value the office of constable, and the complex mix of professional skills, judgement and experience that top quality policing needs.
Too little consideration has been given to the impact on individual officers of all these changes and the lack of transitional support especially at a time when pension contributions are going up, and families are already feeling squeezed.
We believe the police should be looking at different ways to attract new and diverse talents, including people from different backgrounds and ages, and to develop stronger fast tracks and accelerated promotion with high quality training for those with aptitude.
But the combination of cutting starting salaries for the vast majority of new recruits, while increasing starting salaries for a narrow direct entry scheme aimed at chief officers, and the undermining of national training needed to support fast track promotions is a mass of contradictions. If left unquestioned, the Winsor proposals risk being counter-productive, and failing to deliver the flexibility and skills the police need.
We are also concerned that compulsory severance is being proposed to facilitate another huge round of cuts to policing in the next spending review, and that regional pay could increase costs and create unfairness between officers in neighbouring areas doing the same job. There is already variation where it is required, for instance with London-weighting.
Within Winsor there are areas where I agree reforms need to be made. For example, putting greater emphasis on skills is right and also proposals for fitness tests and the need for officers to be physically capable. However there would need to be more support for officers injured in the line of duty.
But most concerning of all is the fact that the government is introducing all these changes in a piecemeal and chaotic way with no overall strategy for the future of policing. The Home Secretary should start with a strong positive vision of what kind of policing we need in the 21st century and then assess proposals for reform against that, rather than ploughing ahead with confused or contradictory plans.
With the chaotic abolition of the NPIA, the experiment with Police and Crime Commissioners without proper checks and balances, consideration of private contracts for core public policing and cuts in police powers in areas from antisocial behaviour to counter terror, this Home Secretary seems to be doing her best to undermine British policing and sadly it is communities that will pay the price.