North Yorkshire Police Federation like many of the hard working, loyal and dedicated men and women who work in the police service, were disappointed and disillusioned by comments which emerged over the festive period from a certain Mr Straw.
Part of his comments deal with the issue of mergers of police forces. That may come to pass but it takes a lot more than a name change to achieve as John Whitaker Straw - often referred to as Jack Straw will know.
The issue of mergers was not pursued by the current government primarily because of concerns on two fronts. Accountability and cost.
Back in 2006 a report by the Association of Chief Police Officers, which was not been disputed by the Government, warned that 25,000 policing posts may have to be shed in order to finance the £600m that it would cost to implement the mergers, even though there is no guarantee that crime will be reduced.
A 2006 Home Office report stated that "To amalgamate North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and Humberside is projected to cost around £39 million."
A September 2009 Home Office report showed that there were 16 forces reporting falls in officer numbers over the twelve months. The largest decreases were in North Yorkshire (8%), Humberside (6%) and South Yorkshire (5%).
Whilst an October 2009 Home Office report showed that nationally real terms gross revenue expenditure increased in every year between 1996/97 and 2007/08 except 2005/06. And that provisional data suggests there were falls in real terms expenditure in both 2008/09 and 2009/10.
So in these times of financial austerity what guarantees are there that the amalgamation process has now been properly costed and how will it be funded without a reduction in service and officer numbers and an increased burden on the taxpayer?
Perhaps if Mr Straw paid more attention to detail he might be less offensive and more factually based. But then again figures and detail aren't his strong points as we discovered during the MP expenses debacle when in a hand-written note to the Commons authorities he declared that "accountancy does not appear to be my strongest suit" despite being a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society.
But these issues are compounded by his offensive comments in relation to bureaucracy. Mr Straw would have the public believe it is a myth and a none issue. If that is the case then why is chapter 5 of the government white paper 'Protecting the public: Supporting the police to succeed' published in December 2009 - entitled 'Improving Efficiency and Capability and Cutting Bureaucracy'?
It is imperative that there is continuing reform of the police service and that this is carried out on a basis of service effectiveness not just financial efficiency. The public must be left with an improved, more effective force that is able to provide a better service.
Rather than going for sound bites, Mr Straw should remember the needs of the public and the welfare of both police officers and police staff. His latest comments do a great disservice to all of them.
North Yorkshire JBB Chairman
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