A chief constable has been attacked for speaking out against Government cutbacks. “Our challenge is Whitehall doesn’t get it, they don’t understand the realities of working on the ground,” Peter Fahy, Chief Constable for Greater Manchester, spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers, was quoted as saying.
He’s been admonished by the Home Office for being utterly irresponsible for saying Government spending cutbacks on police and council services, as well as charitable and voluntary organisations, were putting vulnerable young people at risk. Some think tank most of us have never heard of has gone so far as to accuse him of “shroud waving” – which, if nothing else, shows just how out of touch policy makers are with how people speak today.
Fahy has owned up to over-manning in some police departments and I don’t doubt we could find examples of that in any major workforce, particularly in the public sector, the pity being it’s not the highest paid heads that roll, but the frontline workers. He’s even been gutsy enough to refer to a “political obsession” with keeping the numbers of police officers “artificially high”.
But why should he be muzzled from speaking out in the broader arena? It’s hard, in a target-driven society, to quantify the difference earlier intervention makes to people’s lives but it’s common sense to assume it helps. The safety nets for society held by the third sector, charitable, community and social enterprise groups, are now full of great big holes, thanks to funding gaps, through which the vulnerable will fall. It makes perfect sense, as Fahy has, to link cutbacks, to police, social, employment, family support or young people’s services, to problems likely to spill onto our streets a few years down the line. We can’t turn the clock back to the days when you could leave your front door open and everyone’s auntie would muck in with child-minding because an awful lot of mums, in some truly awful sink estates haven’t had a role model, let alone much of a home life, to draw upon for their own handling of kids or issues. But we can offer help.
OK, some benefit claimants have been on the fiddle, but right now Rome is burning.
Good schemes are being slashed, and first rate workers, debt counsellors, specialist youth workers, librarians, family support workers, respite carers, scrapped. These are the people who make such a difference in a town so socially deprived it qualifies for the tag inner city on the coast – no matter how nice those headlands or slick those super trams.
So why object to a senior police officer reinforcing that vital link between cutbacks to social support and policing – and the impact upon the most vulnerable?