Monday, December 19, 2005

More Paperwork Sarge

Nick Herbert, the new Tory shadow on Police Reform, has been laying into Charles Clarke's plans for amalgamating forces:

"The Home Secretary has lost the support of police authorities and must now put the re-organisation on hold until the implications for cost, governance, accountability and local policing are properly thought through. His handling of the issue has been appalling, driven to an unnecessarily tight timetable and culminating in a clumsy attempt to bully and bribe police authorities into submission."

The Association of Police Authorities (APA), which includes many Labour politicians, has told its members not to volunteer amalgamations by Dec 23 - the Home Office deadline - without adequate financing. The Government is offering up to £125 million but the APA believes the cost could reach £600 million.'

Herbert of course is the ex-Director of Reform, who have been strong advocates of increasing police accountability to local communities. In that way, there's a fighting chance the boys and girls in blue will put local concerns at the top of their priorities, instead of spending all their time box-ticking for Whitehall. The government's plans for supersized forces will take us further in the exact opposite direction.

The money facts are that Labour have roughly doubled police spending. It stood at £8.3 bn in the last Tory year, compared to around £16 bn this year. And there are nearly 15,000 more police officers, albeit accompanied by an even larger rise in non-combatant civilian staff.

Unfortunately, all that extra form filling (as reported by our splendid blogging coppers) doesn't leave much time for actually tackling crime. So detection rates have fallen- from about 28% to a scarily low 23%. Plus, as we've been hearing more about recently, 999 response times seem to have collapsed- particularly if you happen to be under threat by anyone dangerous.

The only way of turning the tide is to make the police more accountable to us, here in our local crime suffering communities.

Let's hope the Clarke plan is stopped before any more forests are destroyed.

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