The police service, and the UNISON members who staff it, are in the news this week.
Just this morning came news that three Midlands police forces are considering outsourcing their control room and have asked private security firm G4S to “carry out a feasibility study” on what it might be able to offer, including handing 999 and 101 phone calls.
That’s G4S, the company who won a contract to provide security at the Olympics in 2012 only for the police and army to have to step in because it couldn’t recruit enough guards.
But we know why Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Northants police have turned to the private sector.
The cuts they’ve suffered alongside other public services mean they’re desperate to try and save money.
But experience after experience has shown that privatisation is a false economy. It really is wrong for a private company to try and make money out of policing and justice.
But the real villains of the piece are in government, cutting and cutting the resources available to the police service.
From 999 call takers to fingerprint experts, from detention officers to scene of crime officers, our police service is struggling with staff shortages and huge workloads.
And there is no division between “front line” and so-called “back office” – all parts of the service are being hit.
Almost 4,500 community support officer roles have been wiped out since 2010 and now forces are nervously waiting to see what lies in store for them in the chancellor’s autumn spending review.
And the signs are ominous. Just this week, six police and crime commissioners – five of them Conservatives – have written to the Home Office saying they will seek a judicial review if plans to cut their budgets aren’t altered.
These are additional cuts after a review of the way central government allocates funds to the 43 police forces in England and Wales.
Meanwhile, the ‘standard’ budget cuts of the government’s austerity agenda have been going ahead.
Scientific services within the police simply no longer have the resources to investigate all burglaries, assaults, muggings and acts of vandalism, so vital clues that could lead to the arrest of persistent criminals just aren’t being picked up.
These and other cuts mean there are no longer any reassurances for the public that any given crime will be investigated, or ultimately that justice will be done.
UNISON will continue to campaign and fight these cuts. And should police staff feel that there is no other option open to them, we will support them if they wish to move towards industrial action.
I will work with our police staff members and the service group executive to ensure that these key workers, who keep our homes, streets and neighbourhood safe, have the support and resources they need.