Spending Review Response

Dr Alan Billings has today (4 September, 2019) responded to the chancellor’s spending review.

He said: “This was not a Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) but only a one year settlement. This makes medium and long term planning very, very difficult because of all the uncertainties it now creates for future years. In South Yorkshire, because of the costs of legacy issues – Hillsborough and CSE – we have to be especially careful around finances. A one year settlement does not help us.

“The devil will be in the detail.

“But the penny finally seems to have dropped that there is a link between police numbers and levels of crime.  The government inherited falling crime from the last Labour government and proceeded to cut police numbers. They were warned that eventually this would result in higher levels of crime – but they chose to ignore those warnings. The result has been an increase in crime in recent years, especially violent crime. All the urban centres have been affected by that, including South Yorkshire

“The chancellor seems to have passed over the fact that much of this announcement was about trying to undo the damage that Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition and Conservative governments have done over the past nine year of austerity. The 20,000 police officer posts simply takes police numbers back to where they were a decade ago, despite the fact that the population has grown, and crime has gone up and become more complex.

“The chancellor spoke about Home Office spending increasing by 6.3%. He did not say funding would increase. It is not clear, therefore, whether paying for 20,000 extra police is going to be by way of Home Office grant or whether the government expect substantial hikes in council tax to pay for them, at least in part. I have made it clear that the people of South Yorkshire cannot afford further big increases and it would be unfair to shift the burden of paying for a public service as important as policing onto hard-pressed council taxpayers.

“Extra police are welcomed but the funding has to include everything else needed to pay for them: the cost of training, uniforms and equipment, technology, and other support services.

“I welcome additional funding for on-line CSE, because so much of grooming has now moved off the streets and onto the internet, where children are just as vulnerable, if not more so. But a more holistic approach would include more resources going into preventing children getting into difficulties in the first place.

“The same is true of prison places. It would be far better to put some extra resources into stopping people committing crime in the first place – as we will be doing with many partners through the Violence Reduction Unit that we launched in South Yorkshire this week.

“I also welcome the fact that government realises that extra police will mean more prosecutions and that means more Crown Prosecutors will be needed to deal with increased trials.

“I do welcome extra funding for youth services – though they have been decimated over the past decade and it will take time to re-build what has been lost or savaged.

“I welcome funding to tackle homelessness, because the problems of homeless people takes up a lot of police time that should be spent on serious crime.

“I welcome the additional funding for places of worship to improve their security. One of the by-products of Brexit has been an increase in levels of hate crime directed towards minority groups, with attacks on synagogues, mosques and churches.”