This weeks Autumn Statement appears to have surprised a number of commentators for its appearance as being a ‘popular’ one that protects areas which were otherwise considered as under threat. Had we been approaching a General Election, such a statement would have surprised no one. The reality is that we are approaching a nation election contest, one that the Conservative Party are very focused on and that they are prepared to use our money to win. In May 2016 the second Police and Crime Commissioner elections will fall on the same day as Mayoral Elections in London, Bristol, Liverpool, Leicester and Hartlepool. It is no surprise that the politically astute Chancellor has chosen to suppress the expected cut to Policing and found other ‘popular’ measures. Currently a mere 35% of PCC’s are Conservatives and as someone who has masterminded national election campaigns, George Osborne will want to see this figure rise so that Conservative PCCs dominate the national policing picture moving forward. If the ‘give away’ areas of this statement are as effective as he must hope, with 50% or more Conservative PCCs in post the situation will be very different. This decision will have pleased Katy Bourne, PCC for Sussex who is one of the few Conservative PCCs in the South East. Interviewed by BBC South East in the week before the Autumn Statement she claimed she was relaxed about the expected cuts to policing budgets. Clearly she knew more than the rest of us, but that is the benefit of a Party Politicised Police and Crime Commissioner, until there is a Labour Government that will not be so open or supportive of the Sussex PCC. That said there are cuts previously announced that will continue to bite deep into the fabric of policing in Sussex and elsewhere. Not so relaxing for the rest of us!
Meanwhile there are many areas within the statement that should concern all of us. We will be deeply affected by severe cuts to local Government which will impact all parts of Sussex to the detriment of most residents. Sadly this Government like its predecessors as far back as the time of Margaret Thatcher have had little time for working in a cooperative manner with their colleagues in local Government. Arguably that is changing as the centralised Mayoralties begin to grow, with Manchester, Sheffield and other city regions due to also elect executive Mayors in the next 4 years. Unfortunately due to the inability of Sussex Councils to decide if they want a Brighton City region which only spreads as far as Mid Sussex and Lewes, or a Sussex wide region without any reference to Brighton we are some way off being able to eat at that top table. Another area that stands out for those of us involved in the world of charities is the rather modest (for a Government Department) budget for the Charity Commission. Their budget remains frozen until 2020. In the light of the lack of challenge to Kids Company, the lack of capacity within the Commission is also of concern but there are no votes in the charity sector, particular post the lobbying bill which prevents Charities from giving the merest hint of interest in decisions taken by political parties.