8 TH November, 2012
Greater Manchester PCC: Cuts are reckless says candidate
Greater Manchester Police has had its budget cut by 20% over five years[/caption]Government spending cuts for Greater Manchester Police are “reckless”, the Labour candidate for the police and crime commissioner post has said.
Tony Lloyd told a BBC Radio Manchester debate the force could survive a 12% budget cut, but not the 20% it faces.
Conservative Michael Winstanley said he would fight for a better deal in the next police financial settlement.
The force has had its budget reduced by 20% for the five-year period between 2010-15 by central government.
Mr Lloyd said the former Chief Inspector of Constabulary Dennis O’Connor, who retired in July, said GMP and other forces could have their budgets reduced by 12% over the life of the current Parliament without losing efficiency.
“What this government has proposed is 20% over a quicker time scale and frankly that is reckless because it goes way beyond what the experts said could be done,” he said.
Mr Lloyd pledged to continue fighting the next round of cuts, adding: “If we lie down before these cuts now, what will happen in the next round is that the government will cut Greater Manchester by more than other areas.”
But Mr Winstanley said: “Everyone has got to take their fair share of cuts.”
He added that he would also call for a “fair share for Greater Manchester” in the next police settlement.
Mr Winstanley echoed a call from Mr Lloyd that too much police time is wasted by having officers attending court hearings unnecessarily.
“I will talk to frontline officers to see how we can make efficiency savings and see what are the barriers to doing their job efficiently,” added Mr Winstanley.
Steven Woolfe, of UKIP, said after talking to PCSOs (Police Community Support Officers) £5,000 could be saved each year per officer if they became full-time police officers.
“I have been told by PCSOs their salary is £25,000 a year whereas a newly qualified police officer’s is £20,000 for three years.
“We can make savings of nearly £3.9m if we convert the PCSOs into police officers for three years,” he said.
“That is just one example of officers showing me the savings we can make – it’s an idea from the ground up,” he added.
Liberal Democrat candidate and retired police officer Matt Gallagher said converting the PCSOs was a non-starter.
“They haven’t got the training and they would be on low pay for first three years but they are on an incremental pay scale up to 12 years so they would cost a lot more,” he said.
Mr Gallagher suggested instead that having apprentice police officers would be a cheaper training option which would also put more officers on the streets.
He said when a recruit joins the police it is 43 weeks until they can go on the beat.
“The bulk of that training can be done in apprenticeship scheme. It also means they are not being paid as police officers and not tied up in classrooms,” Mr Gallagher explained.”
Independent candidate Roy Warren was unwell and unable to attend the debate, but in his election statement said: “I understand the need for cuts and the fact that we have to do more for less.
“I will emphasise the need to protect the sharp end of policing. i.e. protecting the public.”
Euan Doak BBC Manchester Political Reporter
The 20% cuts to Greater Manchester Police’s budget over five years and the loss of nearly 3,000 police and civilian posts is a tough challenge for the force.
Lopping £135m off its spending has already seen a sharpened debate inside the force with its Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, alleging that officers are stretched to breaking point.
Senior officers say the force is still efficient as crime has fallen by 11% despite the budget cuts. The force has already saved £64m in the first 18 months.
However Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy also believes that his officers are being used unnecessarily, such as having to deal with mental health call outs.
While all candidates would like to lessen the effects of the cutbacks they are also seeking ways to focus the force’s reduced resources.
Hence UKIP’s Steven Woolfe’s call for a change to PCSOs and Conservative Michael Winstanley’s promises to ask rank and file officers where they think waste can be trimmed.
Labour’s Tony Lloyd is particularly concerned about the amount of time wasted by officers having to spend time in court while the Liberal Democrat Matt Gallagher believes the force can meet its commitments if constables are deployed purely for crime fighting.
Independent Roy Warren was unable to attend the debate due to illness.
CreditL BBC Manchester [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-20253410]