Blog & Update: 3

Taxing times

Each year I have to decide how much people will have to pay in council tax for policing (the precept).

I never find this an easy decision, but this year I was very concerned to read a report that said that South Yorkshire was one of the poorest regions in Europe. Then we had the floods which devastated so many, especially those who were not insured, followed by an announcement about redundancies in the steel works at Stocksbridge. For these reasons I decided to bring in a precept that was as low as possible while still supporting day-to-day policing and allowing us to increase police numbers. The precept I set was an increase of 2% on the previous year – and it turned out to be the lowest in the country.

I am glad I held the cost down because in addition to what I knew then, we now see even more  people struggling financially as COVID-19 causes job losses across the county.

Next year I’m thinking of a different strategy for finding the money. I’m writing a letter. It starts like this: “Dear Captain/Colonel Tom, I wonder if you would like a new project….”

Police numbers

Despite all the difficulties of the present time, our ambitious goal of increasing police numbers is being kept to, and, of course, as well as the increase we planned through the council tax (220),  the government itself has also committed to add to those numbers (487).

But we also need to replace officers who are retiring or leaving the service (779). In other words, South Yorkshire Police are looking to recruit 1486 officers between now and 2023/24.

So a huge recruitment is going on to grow the size of South Yorkshire Police with new officers and also by bringing some retired officers back. Over the next few years we shall have restored the numbers lost each year since 2010 – the years of austerity – and, if we can, we will go beyond that.

The next few years are going to be a hard time for criminals.

This also means that there will be real opportunities for people across the county, and given that jobs are going to be lost as a result of COVID-19, this may be a good moment for some to think seriously about a career in policing.

Mental Health and COVID-19

There is nothing good about corona virus. It has made some people very ill. It has caused many premature deaths. It has led to some people having to work incredibly long hours caring for the sick while causing others to lose their businesses and their jobs. It has brought worry to us all.

As I write this I am listening to someone on the radio talking about the impact this is having on people’s mental health and well-being, especially where people are cooped up in a small flat or apartment. I don’t doubt for one minute that this is so and can be very serious for some people. But there can be another side to this – for some.

My younger son is a case in point. He lives in a village near Winchester with his partner and three little children. His normal day would be this: he gets up at 6am (while the family are asleep), cycles to a train station a few miles away, catches a commuter train into London – standing room only – then a couple of stops on the underground and a short walk to his office. He does this in reverse in the evening, arriving home around 8pm – just in time to say goodnight to the children.

But for the last five weeks he has had to work from home. As a result, he has been able to have all meals with the family, he has played with the children for part of the day and read them a story at bedtime. He has seen a big improvement in his sense of well-being. So for him and his family, COVID-19 has perversely led to a big improvement in mental well-being.

But it has also raised serious questions about the kind of life he will be going back to.

I hope you are staying safe and well.


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