Since they came into Government ten years ago, the Conservatives have cut funding to public services again and again and again. This has caused all sorts of issues within the NHS, local councils, schools, police, fire services and many others in the last decade, but the Coronavirus pandemic has really served to highlight the damage that has been done.
Policing has been a particularly good example. The Conservatives cut the number of police by well over 22,000 and funding has been slashed by billions. In the same time, we’ve seen victim satisfaction with policing drop, along with the number of offences that result in a charge. For the so-called “party of law and order” this is an abysmal record.
Of course, the Prime Minister pledged last year to increase police numbers by 20,000, but this still leaves us with fewer officers than in 2010, whilst the population has increased significantly. The truth of the matter is that the Tories cut police to the bone and have left forces that are overstretched and under-resourced.
For a long time, they claimed that reducing police numbers had no impact on crime levels. Yes – they actually said that! It was an insult to people’s intelligence and to all of those working within the police and who have been the victims of crime.
When you add in a pandemic, the folly of the Tories’ neglect of policy becomes clear for all to see. Here, we’ve seen illegal raves, antisocial behaviour and the disgraceful car meet in Dane Bank, alongside spikes in certain types of crime. Our excellent police officers are under enormous pressure and working on incredibly limited resources.
The Government is now asking us to snitch on neighbours (or not, depending on which minister happens to be in front of the camera) and trying to force councils to lay on “Covid marshals” despite not providing any funding. This is largely because they know that police do not have the resources they need after years of underfunding.
I am, of course, very glad that we are starting to see police numbers rise again, but rebuilding the force is going to take time and this crisis has shown yet again why they never should have been cut in the first place.