In the County Council chamber last month, the Tories brought forward a motion condemning the Labour Party for suggesting that there are benefits to be had when looking at merging structures within the police service. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to speak against the motion, as I am a believer in evidence based decision-making and not just discounting options out of hand.
It was also a great opportunity to highlight a the initiative by the Labour Party, to have a Zero Based review of all Government Structures as well as to highlight the hypocrisy in the Conservative Party in bring the motion forward in the first place. Chris Leslie MP gave a speech, looking at reviewing all Government structures and administration. In one section looking at police services he said “Administrative structures need to be reviewed. As the widely respected Independent Police Commission chaired by Lord Stevens set out, there are options for change in police structures, including locally negotiated mergers and regionalisation. We, the Labour Party, are consulting on the recommendations that the Commission made.”
We have to remember that in the field of emergency services, rather than addressing the structure and cost of police force administration, this Government opted for the creation of Police & Crime Commissioners in a bid to save money. We spend more today on Police and Crime Commissioners than on the old Police Authorities that they replaced? Let’s not forget that the principle of PCCs were so unpopular with the general public that very few people had any inclination to vote, and a good percentage of those that did vote, spent more time writing “choice messages” on their ballot papers to express their disgust at the position.
What was really odd for me was that I had to repeat the rationale of what I said in the chamber 2 meetings ago, when talking about options for our fire service, and the need for evidence when discounting future options and that motion passed to keep all options open. Using that same rationale for the Police Service, how do we know that we are best served by a structure based on our county boundary? If we don’t have the evidence to say why a county based structure is the best option and why merging with a neighbor is not in the best interest, then all they are doing is shutting down potential options based on your their fear that the Labour Party is right. The Labour review isn’t only looking at an all-out mergers, we recognise that there is a lot of value to be had in regionalising common services.
As an example: When Yorkshire was pushed to look at merging, the review estimated that regionalisation of some of the services could save nearly £100m. This review looked at services like:
- call handling, including emergency & non-emergency calls & dispatch handling
- scientific support, such as fingerprint laboratories
- Support services, such as finance and human resources.
This review was commissioned in June 2010 and was one of the first reviews commissioned by this present government. For me this was the fundamental flaw of this motion, it is the Current Government have pushed hard for the regionalisation of Yorkshire’s services as a flagship example to the country.
In passing the motion the Party opposite sent a clear message of no confidence to their own Party and their own government that they don’t think they did the right thing then, and are continuing to do the wrong thing now, because out of that review the Government are pushing for more regionalised and nationalised services, such as Police Diving units and the formation of the National Police Air Service that merges all UK Police Air Assets, which is rolling out this October.
This motion was nothing more than electioneering by the Tories and Lib Dems, focusing on scaremongering rather than looking at the needs and benefits of our communities. It will come as no surprise that I, and the Labour Party, voted against this motion, and I did suggest that if the Tories and Liberals don’t want to embarrass their comrades in Westminster – they did the same, but they were too
intent on trying to not lose face despite the facts.