John Toomey Regional Organiser for Unison in the Eastern Region tells the BBC’s Paul Stainton that excessive cuts to the police budget are unacceptable. Broadcast at 07:10 on Friday 25th June 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
STAINTON: More cutbacks ,, have been announde in Peterborough. Cambridgeshire Police has confirmed that its grant has been cut by one point two million pounds. They have recently frozen recruitment for back room staff, and are looking to reduce overtime. And the outgoing Chief Constable Julie Spence says these cuts will have an impact on frontline services. (TAPE)
SPENCE: Everybody within the constabulary has a role in ensuring our policing response is effective. Where would we be without call-takers, crime scene investigators, fingerprint experts and core staff to manage the infrastructure such as recruitment and pay, finances, and our ever-increasing reliance on IT? The officer or PCSO on the street can not do their job without these key people behind them. The are all part of the modern day frontline. But we are constantly seeking ways of economising. Few would argue with not doubt any move on our part to try to make the service we offer as effective as possible. Yet many such moves seem to be greeted by scepticism.
STAINTON: I think she may have been reading that. John Toomey is the Regional Organiser of the union Unison which represents backroom staff in Cambridgeshire. Morning John.
TOOMEY: Good Morning.
STAINTON: Were you expecting this?
TOOMEY: We were. But can I just make one point first?
TOOMEY: The only backrooms in the police service are the ones with locks on the doors and bars on the windows. All the other rooms are part of the police team frontline. So this idea that somehow there are rooms that are full of people ..
STAINTON: Typing pools.
TOOMEY: .. who sit around doing very little frankly is nonsense.
STAINTON: The days of the typing pool are long gone aren’t they?
TOOMEY: Well they are indeed. Everybody is working flat out in order to deliver results. So the people at Peterborough and Cambridgeshire really do need to know that this mythology that’s been created of vast rooms of people and so on with very little do, that’s just nonsense. Everybody’s working at full stretch all of the time.
STAINTON: She did say in this weekly podcast that it will have an impact on frontline services, and that’s the key here, that’s the big fear, that not only do we lose some of what she called the backroom staff, but who are all part of a big team, we lose officers off the beat, we lose officers detecting crime, and it gets worse.
TOOMEY: Well absolutely. And I think a lot of people have been fortunate enough this week to be able to watch the football and so on. You tell me who in the England team you would take off the field, and then claim it’s more efficient, whether or not you take off a goalkeeper, or one of the strikers. You take somebody out of the team you make it less efficient, not more. And year on year we’ve had the police service making every saving it can make, only to then find somebody’s saying you’ve got to take more out. Well we know the net result of that will have to be a poorer service. And that’s not what people want. People are saying they actually want results out there.
STAINTON: We’re already short of officers in Cambridgeshire, aren’t we?
TOOMEY: Yes indeed. And one of the things we have said is that as part of the ongoing review, the question should be asked, does any particular job require a warranted officer? And if not, then that warranted officer can be out on the frontline, and be replaced by a civilian member of staff. But if people are talking about making cuts, then they are forcing more and more work onto fewer and fewer people.
STAINTON: Does Julie have an alternative here though? Because she’s going to have less money. She’s got to do something hasn’t she? What do you suggest she should do?
TOOMEY: At the end of the day it’s about the decisions that the people of Peterborough, the people of Cambridgeshire make, which is what sort of service they want. And they are saying they want things like anti-social behaviour, that they want some of the other crimes dealing with. Well you can only deal with the resources you’ve got. If you’ve not got the resources you can’t deliver that service.
STAINTON: What do you fear will be the biggest effect here? What will the people of Peterborough see, do you fear, as an effect of all this?
TOOMEY: Again I think it’s as we’ve seen with a number of other services, that you pick up the phone, it is answered, but the opportunity for somebody to respond, to be with you, is going to be reduced, simply because somebody has said we can make a saving. And the sort of savings that are being talked about frankly are going to be a matter of a couple of pennies a week in your pocket and my pocket. That’s the difference it will make in terms of the economy. But in terms of the service, it will have a very real impact.
STAINTON: What effect is it going to have on police presence on the streets?
TOOMEY: It’s very difficult to say at this point in time, because everybody’s got to go back and look at whether or not any more can be squeezed out. But that has happened already. The last few years have been spent in people making savings year on year on year. And we’ve got a new Chief Constable coming in, Simon Parr, and I don’t envy the task that Simon faces, because having been provided with a very lean machine by Julie Spence, he faces a situation where somebody is saying you’ve got to make greater savings on top of that.
STAINTON: Should the people of Peterborough be worried?
TOOMEY: I come back to the analogy again. Where do we cut down on our football team?
STAINTON: Well we could get rid of Heskey but that’s a different matter.
TOOMEY: (LAUGHS) If we’ve got it down to eleven players we need eleven players. We might look at who are the right players but the fact is that we need all those players. We need all those players in the police service as well.
STAINTON: Should the people of Peterborough be worried about this?
TOOMEY: It’s not about being worried. It’s about ..
STAINTON: Well it is if you’ve been robbed and nobody comes round.
TOOMEY: It’s about being able to say where the priorities must lie. It’s about saying to the politicians sorry, we’re only prepared to allow you to go so far and not beyond that.
STAINTON: But if you’re a victim of crime, John, and you know how people do worry about the fear of crime, if you are a victim of crime and nobody’s coming round to investigate it, if you think your car is going to get broken into, and there’s no point in reporting it because nobody cares, nobody’s there, that is a worry, isn’t it?
TOOMEY: Well the answer to that is of course we do care, and the answer to that is that as soon as it can be we will be there. But it is recognising that the politicians have made a decision that despite all the promises that were made, that cuts are going to take place in our police service. And that is very shameful. It’s something we’re very angry about. But I don’t think in any way we lose the committment from people across the police service, to give the best service they can to the people of Peterborough, to the people of Cambridgeshire.
STAINTON: John thank you for that. John Toomey is the Regional Organiser of the union Unison which represents backroom staff in Cambridgeshire, talking about those cutbacks in Cambridgeshire Police.