On Wednesday, along with my Labour colleagues, I voted against the Government’s grant settlement for the Police. The Government is reducing the Home Office grant to local police forces by £100 million in real terms. The only way forces like Suffolk Police can keep their heads above water is by putting up Council Tax – faced with that stark choice Suffolk residents have agreed that they would rather pay the extra tax than see the number of their police reduce yet again.
But it’s not a fair way of funding the police. Council Tax is not related directly to income. So a couple living in a mansion and earning a fortune will only have to pay three times as much as a couple living in a one-room flat on the minimum wage. And it‘s not obvious to people what they are paying their Council Tax for. Ipswich residents need to be aware that nearly 90% of the Council Tax rise this year will be to pay for the County Council and for the Police, even though it is the Borough Council which will have to collect it.
The Conservatives – including the Prime Minister on Wednesday – continue to claim that they are not making cuts to our Police, but the figures speak for themselves, and I intervened in the debate to make sure those figures were heard. Between March 2010 and September 2017 Suffolk Police lost 150 officers, a reduction of 12 %. And over the same period, we lost 86 Police Community Support Officers, a reduction of 50%. And the idea that our Police have become more efficient, by transferring work to support staff, is also disproved by the reduction in support staff – down over 200 in the 7 years. If you take the reduced number of Special Constables into account too, our Police Service have nearly 25% fewer staff than when the Conservatives took control of the country.
When I challenged the Police Minister about Suffolk’s Police in September, she thought I said “Southwark” rather than “Suffolk” and tried to blame the situation on the Mayor of London. But actually the Conservatives have nobody else to blame in Suffolk – it is either the Conservative Police & Crime Commissioner or the Conservative Government (or both) which are at fault.