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Tony Hogg on police budget cuts:  “We need to hold our MPs to account…”

Friday, 23 October 2015 8 Comments by Claire

Devon and Cornwall’s police and crime commissioner, Tony Hogg, told his performance and accountability board last Thursday (22 October) that the public needed to hold MPs to account, over crippling austerity measures.

He said that he “could not underestimate the potential for high harm to policing as we know it.”

Mr Hogg, with members of his team, was responding to my question at the meeting, which was webcast at County Hall.

I was there, along with a small number of other councillors.

I asked him about MPs and how helpful they were being in supporting the force in battling against the catastrophic cuts.  I said that I didn’t think that I had seen any public comments from them.

Elected as a Conservative PCC in 2012, Mr Hogg added that his team had briefed MPs regularly about the budget cuts, but they had “come to terms with this rather slowly.”

Mr Hogg thought that most Devon and Cornwall MPs had attended a private briefing session with the policing minister, but only around three (including Ben Bradshaw) had joined with him to deliver a petition to Downing Street, opposing the cuts.

Mr Hogg politely asked me whether he had answered my question. I replied that I was disappointed not to have heard a public objection from MPs.

Mr Hogg said he was “publicly agreeing” with me, adding:  “In a sense the public holds me to account. We need to hold our MPs to account up to Christmas.”

He said he was urging the public to talk to MPs, adding:  “It’s almost out our hands now. We have done more than any other force to understand this. We are putting a final view to consultation period by 30 of this month and we will learn before Christmas what the full effect is.”

Earlier this month, chief constable, Shaun Sawyer, announced that unprecedented cuts of around £54m would mean that the focus of policing would have to move away from low risk crime and instead remain only on the areas of highest risk.

Dozens of police stations across Devon and Cornwall are now at risk of closure, even including Heavitree Road Station in Exeter. The city’s only station open to the public.
The force, which covers the largest geographical police area in England, could see officer numbers reduced to 2,500 - down from 3,500 in 2010.

A further 200 community support officers and 150 civilian support staff roles could also be axed.

My other point related to police community support officers (PSCOs) and I issued a plea not to cut these roles, as, in Ottery’s case, Maria Clapp, is vital to the smooth running of Ottery. She is always present, visible and resolves all kinds of minor issues and disputes expertly and quickly.  If her role was lost it would be a huge blow to Ottery.

Mr Hogg, outlined the financial challenges facing the force before saying that he and his officers had “agonised” about neighbourhood policing and the “huge contribution of PCSOs.”  He said that if the force has to deliver savings of £54m they might not even be able to do it, as they may not be able to make people redundant fast enough.

I have criticised the office of police and crime commissioner many times since the elections in 2012 on the basis that I dislike the politicisation of the police force – and the resulting expense. I still disagree with the principle of PCCs.

However, I was impressed by Mr Hogg’s candidness. He is clearly extremely unhappy and worried about the cuts – and is pursuing our interests at central government actively and openly. 

But we need to take his advice and hold our MPs to account. Write to Hugo Swire at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

If you would like to watch the webcast, the above exchange is at 50.30 - http://www.devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/189725

Comments

1. At 12:58 pm on 24th Oct Chris Wakefield wrote:

I would write to Hugo Swire if I thought it would do any good. But thesedays, if you send him an email he’s usually too busy to do any more than refer you to his website where there are some pointers to his views on various topics. So the issue of potential loss of our PCSO in Ottery at a time where the town is set to increase in size beyond all reason, may not attract his attention. As an avid free marketeer, deregulator and dismantler of almost everything with the word ‘public’ it its title, why should the police concern him any more than any other public service in terminal decline? The legacy that Margaret Thatcher left us with in social and economic policy - of the market allowed the freedom to regulate our lives in an unprecedented way, led us to the disaster that hit in 2008. To position this event (as the Tories regularly do with increasingly desperate implausibility) as a ‘Black Swan’ event that ‘no-one could forsee,’ or that ‘it’s all the last Labour government’s fault’, rather than admitting it’s an outcome of flawed economic policy, is nonsensical and liable to precipitate yet more trouble, as things run away from us again and we row ourselves into the next crash. I’m not an economist, but I try to keep up a bit with how things are shaping up, and it’s clear enough that the current economic orthodoxies are not fit for purpose.

The few economists who DID spot the 2008 crisis in the making (and who were scoffed at and widely ignored at the time, when they tried to tell us) are now demanding a new look at their assessment of how economies operate and why we need to alter the ways we have done economics for the last 35 years. They are the inheritors of Keynsian economic theory, updated and developed for the 21st century. Readers of this blog will probably be aware of this anyway, but it’s news to me, and slightly encouraging that there is, in fact, an alternative. Try Steve Keen’s book ‘Debunking Economics’ for starters. Hard going for sure, but at least it gives you some hope that things could change for the better if the old guard in economics is debunked.

Maybe someone should have a word with George Osborne to suggest he reads up on new economics, before he plunges those least deserving of it deeper into poverty, simply because he hasn’t understood what happened in 2008. Not that Hugo and all his Tory pals (and some on the Labour benches) wouldn’t also benefit from a similar rethink.  This debate is a difficult one to get going, because of the deadweight of existing interests, and the seismic changes that might ensue if newer thinking made it into the governing classes. But it needs to happen, if we are going to avoid more nastiness of the sort we are seeing from the government over Tax Credits.

Try this -  http://www.debunkingeconomics.com/

2. At 06:33 pm on 25th Oct Tony Hogg wrote:

Fairly reported, thank you. MPs met with the policing Minister last week and until I get accurate feedback I must assume no change: £54m to be saved over 4 years - devastating, not least to our police officers and their families. For police legitimacy to be healthy, the police need to feel they have public approval. Already stretched, they are getting on with the job very creditably; but they feel bruised. With no side, thank goodness for the PCC team that provide a daily foil (challenge) to policing to ensure outcomes have a robust business scrutiny. 
I will be meeting with the Chief Constable on Wednesday evening to determine the language for our consultation period before Christmas to see if the public want to pay more to uphold the quality of our policing. Much to do over the next few months. Complex things happening at government level - hard to know whether they will ease or worsen our situation.

3. At 02:40 pm on 26th Oct Sandra Semple wrote:

Writing to Hugo Swire is a waste of time.  He is far too busy sucking up to the Chinese at lavish banquets.  Unfortunately, this government will continue with its draconian cuts in public services leaving us to the mercy of private enterprises in which most of us are not, nor are we ever likely to be, shareholders who will reap vast profits from us. 

I knew this was going to happen before the last election and voted accordingly.  Until the electorate wakes up and realises that so-callec austerity is just another name for VAST privatisation and asset stripping, nothing will change.

In terms of policing, the rich will invest in expensive technology and gated communities to keep their assets safe and will employ private security when they want it.  The rest of us will just be ignored and left to cope as best we can.  I feel very sorry for the few police who will be left who will bear the anger of their communities when it is not their fault (unless most of them voted this government in, of course).

You don’t want this?  Get out of the mindset that Hugo Swire and his party is what this district needs and vote accordingly.  Don’t continue to pin the blue rosette on donkeys which then go on to do these things to us.

4. At 11:09 pm on 26th Oct Joan Kelly wrote:

Perhaps if Mr Hogg cut back on his salary and cut the amount of staff that he has then the crisis in policing would be less severe. I bet he doesn’t give up his job to pay for another Police Officer on the streets.
In an email to myself Mr Hogg said that communities should get volunteers to police their areas. Is he asking for vigilantes?. 
In my view PCC should be abolished and the funds given to the Chief Constable who knows more about policing than Mr Hogg ever will.

5. At 08:50 pm on 29th Oct Chris Wakefield wrote:

Hang on Joan, let’s take a rain check on this one.

I wasn’t greatly impressed with the idea of PCCs when it came about - I figured it was just another hollow ‘localism’ promise, of the kind we’re painfully familiar with in local planning services. So this is a chance to see if the new arrangements are any use to us. Tony Hogg now understand that the local policing effort will be undermined and diminished by the next round of cuts from the government. He’s a practical man with a military background, so he knows about strategic issues, and he’s taken issue publicly with funding cuts.

Given that this is probably not what the government intended with the creation of PCCs, we have to wonder how he will get on. I hope he prevails, but I wince at the thought of the pressure he may be subjected to for the embarrassment he could cause in the corridors of power. Embarrassment is not a welcome experience in government circles - witness George Osborne’s pugnacious response to the House of Lords’ expressing their justifiable anxiety about the Tax Credits legislation.

The government reps will no doubt tell Mr Hogg that a greater good comes of these calamitous funding cuts; that the economy will flourish as a result, that we will all be transported to the sunny uplands of vigorous private enterprise.

It’s not true of course - there are better ways of running the economy than endless cutting of public expenditure - see the link on my earlier comment - but that’s what he will be told, and it’s hard to take a stand against the mantras of the free market that have driven policy in both the major parties over the last 35 years. On the other hand maybe Mr. Hogg still has a negotiating position: to wit - that marginalising the police effort will not assist in controling the indigent rabble that spoil the dream of a privatised world. If the poor insist on messing things up by staying poor, then you would think the police would be the last body to be shorn of resources to control social discontent, should the said povs get a bit edgy. With the gap between the richest and the poorest expanding, more assertive discontent grows ever more likely, wouldn’t you think?

Let’s just see how he gets on before we trash his efforts.

6. At 10:40 pm on 29th Oct Joan Kelly wrote:

Chris I still think Mr Hogg is an unnecessary burden on the public purse.  I feel very sorry for the Police Officers who will lose their jobs. Morale in the Police Force is at rock bottom.
I understand that Mr Hogg was in the Navy, so does he have any experience of policing?. I think not.
He doesn’t seem to care how these cuts will affect communities who are lucky to even spot a Police Officer these days.
What we really need is for the top brass in the Police to be cut, not front line Officers
Many communities across the country are now paying private security firms to protect them, so should they get a reduction in the amount that they pay on their Council Tax bills for policing?.
I haven’t seen Mr Hogg do anything for either communities, or the Police. I don’t think that PCCs are fit for purpose and are certainly a waste of public money.

7. At 08:46 pm on 30th Oct Michael Temple wrote:

I see that Tony Hogg is now suggesting a “consultation” on a rise in Council Tax to pay for those police officers likely to be axed because of cuts to Councils made by central government. Will this not encourage the latter to make even more cuts on the assumption that Joe Public will go on making up the shortfall?

8. At 10:24 am on 05th Nov Claire Wright wrote:

Mr Hogg, thank you very much for your comment above.  A Sidmouth resident would like to know answers to the following questions:  Many thanks

1.  Why do uniformed personnel walk side by side?  Two images on Spotlight tonight showed policemen walking in pairs.  This has been abandoned by the Met, so why are we doing it here?  Policemen should basically never be walking in any town side by side as this halves their effectiveness.  I was once told that they do it for security reasons, but I suspect London is a bit more dangerous than Sidmouth on a Tuesday afternoon.

2.  I see that the inquiry into the Madeleine McCann case has been reduced from 29 officers to 4, after 8 years.  Although the case is tragic and of great public interest, 29 officers seems hugely excessive.

3.  We have seen with Operation Yew Tree that vast police resources have been spent on historic allegations against famous people from the world of pop.  I have no problem with the inquiry, but why was it necessary to so publicly conduct the investigations, and in particular to tip off Sky News regarding the visit to Cliff Richard’s house?

4.  Why did we have 7 uniformed personnel at Sidmouth’s Hot Cross Bun distribution?  We would rather have them in the town centre on a Friday or Saturday night.

5.  Has he considered reducing speed traps, and increasing Friday and Saturday night town centre policing?

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