Bob Ainsworth’s speech in debate on cuts to policing on 16 November 2010 in Westminster Hall:
I will be as brief as I can because some of the points that I wanted to make have been raised. However, I would like to reiterate one or two of them. As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) has just pointed out, the way that the cuts are being brought in is disproportionate. I asked the Home Secretary about the underlying reason for that, and I got no answer whatsoever, despite the fact that she claimed that she had prior notice of my question. Why are the high-crime areas being disproportionately hit in comparison with low-crime areas? The Minister knows that to be the case because of the proportion of policing that is paid for by grant. The cuts have been structured in such a way that the high-crime areas-including the west midlands, which has bigger problems although it is not the only such area-are being disproportionally hit by the way that the Government are making the cuts. I thought that we were all in this together. Why are people not being affected in proportion to the size of the problem that they experience?
It is disingenuous to say that there will be no cuts in the front-line service as a result of the measures being taken. There is no perfect organisation, but the West Midlands police service is recognised as one of the more efficient in the country. We are being borne down on all the time in terms of efficiency and pushing harder and further to get more police on the front line. That needs to continue under any regime, but I want to challenge Conservative Members. They will find over time that of all the organisations that they deal with as Members of Parliament, the police-more than any other organisation, in my experience-are under-resourced in terms of clerical support and back-up. When we write a letter to a police officer, we wind up with front-line officers having to respond to us because they do not have the back-office staff to anything like the extent to which some other organisations have them. Therefore, the cuts in back-office staff being planned in the west midlands-my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington referred to a figure of more than 1,000-will drag police officers off the streets and into doing those jobs to an even greater extent than is the case now.
I also want to point out some of the difficulties that will be experienced in implementing the measures. We cannot make police officers redundant. Therefore, we shall probably have to enforce regulation A19 of the Police Pensions Regulations 1987 and discontinue police officers’ service at 30 years, thereby losing disproportionately extremely experienced police officers whom we can ill afford to lose. Does the Minister believe that the West Midlands police service will be able to cope with that without doing what I think the chief constable will have to do, which is freeze recruitment to that police service? I think that that is being planned and that that freeze will continue for the next four years, leaving a gap in policing that will move slowly through the force, giving it problems for a generation, never mind the next couple of years.
I want to make a point off the back of what my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham) said. This issue does not affect only the west midlands, although the west midlands will really be in difficulty because of the proposed cuts. I do not know whether hon. Members are aware that a month or two ago Warwickshire police authority, fearful of how on earth the Warwickshire police force would cope with the agenda being imposed on it-it is one of the smallest police forces in the country-proposed an amalgamation with the Coventry police service. It did so because it simply did not see how the Warwickshire force would cope. It is not only big forces such as the West Midlands force, serving high-crime areas, that will have huge problems. Smaller police forces, carrying a disproportionate overhead because of their size, will wind up with the problems that have been described.