Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hit The Reset Switch

The economy is in the crapper. Savings have to be made. There's no money to carry on as we are.

I get it.

At some point however, someone needs to step in front of the efficiency juggernaut and say "enough".

The Metropolitan Police have been tasked with saving around £500m over the next three years from their budget by the London Mayor's office. As part of these cuts, the Met is looking at its estate, and in particular which buildings it might be able to get rid of. All good so far.

Part of the plan includes moving out of New Scotland Yard, an old and inefficient building with a 1960s infrastructure, and moving into smaller new premises in nearby Whitehall. The £11m a year it costs to run the current building would be significantly reduced.

Now we get to the hard bit. Also up for sale are five police stations in various London boroughs. The axe is also hovering over a large number of the 136 front counters the Met provides for Londoners as a first point of contact. The Met's proposed solution to this reduction in places where you can find a police officer when you need one?

Neighbourhood teams to be based in popular locations, such as shopping centres or supermarkets.

Presumably these will have to be shopping centres and supermarkets that are open around the clock, in the same way that current police stations and front counter services are. Or is being a victim of or witness to a crime something that only happens during Waitrose opening hours these days?

To adapt a Victorian music-hall song, if you want to know the time ask a member of Tesco Express staff to point you to the nearest police officer. They will be somewhere in aisle four, eyeing the doughnuts.

On a similar note, Leeds City Council have announced that their children's centres and child welfare teams will be closed between Christmas Eve and January 2nd in order to save money. The anticipated savings - the grand sum of £10,000.

Christmas, and the run up to it, is widely recognised as a stressful time. This is enhanced for the poorest families with children, who struggle to deal with the expectation and subsequent disappointment created by a consumer society and peer pressure. Having a trained professional that you can go talk to or somewhere that your children can go to let off steam represents a significant safety valve.

If the removal of these services contributes to the breakdown of one single family unit and the placing of children into local authority care, the £10,000 "saved" is going to be swallowed up in no time at all.

Again, I appreciate that public bodies have to wise with how they spend their money through economic mismanagement not of their making. However, cuts in the quality of service in vital areas such as policing, health and social care in a mad rush to balance the books are cutting off our collective noses to spite our faces.

How much money, for example, is being spent on elections for Police Commissioners that nobody really wants or needs that could otherwise have been devoted to front-line policing?

It's time to stop, collaborate and listen - as Vanilla Ice would say - and work together to bring about a change in the way our society prioritises the money it spends. The current path of slashing services to the bone is simply unsustainable, and benefits no-one.

1 comment:

Amanda Kendal said...

A concise demolition of the situation.

The only thing I'd suggest – which isn't meant in contradiction to what you're saying here – is that if people are in an area that is having police and crime commissioner elections, then they need to vote, and to vote for candidates who are opposed to privatisation of policing. Otherwise, it'll just get even worse.

But spot on.