Derek has been given further cause for concern over Government cuts to policing numbers following representations to him from Margaret Ollerenshaw, Chairman of Cheshire Police Authority, who is urging him to reflect "on the recent civil disturbances and the action of police officers and staff across the country as they restored order."
"I believe the Prime Minister was wrong in his assertion to Parliament that it is not about police officer numbers," Ms Ollerenshaw told Derek. "We could only mobilise the officers we did because of the numbers we had and even then, had the disturbances continued or spread more widely, the service would have been severely stretched and would rapidly have reached a critical state", explained Ms Ollerenshaw. "I worked closely with the Chief Police Officers to ensure they had all they needed to police confidently, with full operational independence in defence of the public. Both in public and in private, we simply got on with the job."
The Cheshire Police Authority Chairman went onto explain the scale and impact of the impending cuts on the service they can provide to local communities. "The budget cuts are front loaded. By 31 March 2012 we will have cut 217 police officer posts from an all time high in 2006/07 of 2215 officers. We will also need to lose a further 151 officer posts by 31 March 2015. The cuts to police staff are even more significant totalling 446 over the same period. These cuts need further consideration in the light of the service demanded of the police and the unknown threats we face, in particular the challenge of policing the Olympics and other major events next year....the public are quite clearly telling us they do not want to see police numbers reduced."
Nor are the public supportive of the Tory-led Government's plans to introduce elected police commissioners. Ms Ollerenshaw informed Derek that only 15% of the public backed the proposals in a poll from March for the organisation Liberty, whilst only 9% of respondents in a recent local survey believed elections would bring police governance closer to the community. "Now is not the time to implement untested and costly new governance arrangements", she concluded.
Commenting on Cheshire Police's observations, Derek said:
"It is abundantly clear to me that the Government's claim that their cutting of police numbers by a fifth won't affect front line policing is not credible. Police chiefs themselves know the adverse impact these cuts will have on their ability to continue to provide the public with the service they expect and deserve. I don't want to see the progress in cutting crime made both locally and nationally under the last Labour Government reversed by this Government's policies. They should listen to the officers on the ground and to those who hold them to account who are saying loud and clear - halt the cuts to police numbers and scrap these unpopular reforms. Ministers should get their priorities right - cutting crime, not police numbers."
Derek will be raising these concerns with Ministers in the House of Commons Chamber.