Anyone can make cuts. Simply deciding to spend less, though for some of us difficult, is not hard. Telling other people to spend less is even easier. Creating and delivering a strategy that answers the problems which necessitate the need to spend less is far far harder.
This past week we've been kettled by news that police forces will face major cuts in the spending review as a result of a policy by Conservative party Home Secretary Theresa May and policing minister Mike Penning. Penning, an MP for Hemel Hemstead in Hertfordshire, claimed expenses from tax payers for dog bowels, a ladle, mugs and coasters.
There are 39 police forces in this green and pleasant land. Each force is largely a separate entity, a unique enterprise if you will. That entails each force having all the separate functions of an enterprise, in particular the back office functions and leadership for those. Over the years a number of CIOs have discussed with me the need for policing CIOs and other support functions to disappear, on a force by force level. Having 39 IT, procurement and finance departments is not sustainable. There are forces across the land that have investigated and made great progress on sharing resources and services and they are to be commended for it.
For ministers to just wield another round of cuts without devising a new vision and strategy for how policing will work in the near and medium term future is short sighted and offensive. Though fraught with problems, Universal Credit at the Department for Work and Pensions is at least a vision and plan for a method of delivering benefits payments that tries to reflect the world of 2015 and beyond.
Policing in the UK needs to be radically restructured. Rural crime rates are on the rise. Major crime is changing and globalisation has an impact on every force and every police officer. What citizens and police officers need is a strategic review by the Home Secretary and policing minister Penning of how the police works, how it is structured and how it deploys. The UK needs to ask itself if it needs separate rural and urban police forces that understand the unique demands on them, just as we have a British Transport Police force. Is it time to accept regional bodies running these and what level of policing should be a national force? Counties are an important part of our national heritage and structure, but there are times when we must move forward and accept a new way of protecting the most vulnerable in our society, which is what all of us expect of the police.