‘There’s a big job to be done,’ says shadow police minister

Addressing UNISON police and justice conference, Sarah Jones says the murder of Sarah Everard ‘must be a watershed moment’

Sarah Jones MP, Labour shadow minister for police, addressing UNISON police and justice conference

“There’s a big job to be done but this must be a watershed moment”. That was a key message from Sarah Jones MP, addressing the murder of Sarah Everard by serving Metropolitan police officer Wayne Couzens when she spoke to UNISON’s police and justice conference in Brighton this morning.

Labour’s shadow police and fire service minister welcomed the news that Philip Allott, the Conservative police, fire and crime commissioner for North Yorkshire who had stated that women “need to be streetwise” and “just learn a bit about the legal process”, had finally quit, three hours after a unanimous vote of no confidence by the North Yorkshire police, fire and crime panel yesterday.

She told delegates: “the right leadership at the top has never been more important”.

Ms Jones opened by thanking delegates “for all you do” and particularly for what they had done during the pandemic.

In a wide-ranging speech, she highlighted the damage of over a decade of austerity and, while “the impact on our society is unquestionable”, she noted that “not enough is said about how it failed as an economic policy on all its tests.

“None of the targets to reduce debt were reached,” while productivity is down and growth lower than many of the UK’s competitors.

In terms of her own brief, “the impact on policing is obvious,” with the Conservatives having cut funding by £1.6bn since 2010.

It has meant the service struggling to meet a whole raft of challenges, including terrorism and the increase of online crime.

“You are dealing with the fallout of a small state,” said Ms Jones.

And on pay, she quoted home secretary Priti Patel claiming that the pay freeze for the sector was justified by “fairness,” pointing out that given rising levels of pay in the private sector, it was not only wrong, but unacceptable that police is the “only emergency service being denied a pay rise this year”.

In terms of future policy, she said that the Labour Party’s top priority was “neighbourhood policing”, stressing how important PCSOs are to this, and telling conference that she is already working with UNISON national officer Ben Priestley to ensure that, on a tour of police forces around the country, she meets with local staff to learn what the situation is really like on the ground.

“I look forward to working with you,” concluded Ms Jones.