“Last year South Yorkshire Police began a hard but necessary journey. It was still reeling from what had been revealed about past conduct at the Hillsborough football disaster and in relation to child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham. It was struggling with a policing model with which the public was unhappy. It did not have a realistic understanding of the demand on its services or what was driving that demand. 101 was not working as it should. Not surprisingly, the verdict of the inspectorate was that the force ‘required improvement’.
“That was then. Now, a year later, we see real signs of change. The new leadership has set out a clear sense of direction and purpose based on the Police and Crime Plan. The inspectors have given the force a rating of ‘good’ for what it terms ‘legitimacy and leadership’. We begin the year, therefore, on a far more optimistic note. If the force can continue in this positive vein, there is no reason why future inspections should not find further improvements.
“Over the next few months we shall have to set the force’s budget for the financial year that begins in April. Every force in the country will probably have to make savings because the money the government allocates for policing plus the money from local council tax will fall a long way short of what forces need.
“But in South Yorkshire we have to find additional savings because some of our money has to be used to finance the costs of those past mistakes – Hillsborough and Rotherham CSE. Those who lost loved ones at Hillsborough or were not helped while being sexually abused as children, are pursuing claims for compensation. The need to find the perpetrators of non-recent child sexual exploitation in Rotherham has resulted in the biggest investigation of its kind in the country with almost 200 detectives and investigators. All this will costs millions of pounds – money that will not be available for normal policing. Without special government grant we could be in a very serious situation. So we need a Home Secretary who will want to see South Yorkshire Police operate on at least a level playing field and not be financially hamstrung by the past.
“So we begin the New Year with a bitter-sweet situation. Bitter because of the finances, sweet because the force is really making progress.
“We wish one another a happy New Year but we do so knowing full well that it won’t happen by magic; if it is to be a good new year we each have to do our bit to make it so.
“Happy New Year.”