Its hard to imagine that when Theresa May was speaking at the Police Federation conference as Home Secretary in 2015, less than two weeks after the last General Election that she could have forseen that she would be forced to eat her own words to the extent that this video clip shows. Particularly at such a critical time for her own political career, and perhaps more importantly at such a critical time for our nation. When I stood as Police and Crime Commissioner in 2012 it was clear that the Tory led coalition was on course to wreak huge damage to the work of our Police forces. There was a widespread acceptance that like any public service, there were areas where it was possible to cut budgets. This was accepted by many within policing and along with others working in local government there were clear and coherent arguments that handled in the right way, cuts introduced after the crash of 2008 by the Labour Government and followed through at the beginning of the coalition would oblige the public sector to find new creative ways of operating by removing people from their comfort zones. Indeed in 2012 the work was already well underway to cut back office costs, share facilities and pool budgets. Ironically the one element that was missing was the willingness from those in Central Government, in particular in the Home Office to work together in a more flexible manner so that savings identified in communities like East and West Susssex could be achieved. However there is a difference between achieving a leaner and more responsive set of public services and cutting so deep that the knife goes through the layers of fat, then into the muscle and in some cases begins to cut into bone. That situation was passed about the same time as Theresa May held the press conference shown above. I know many senior Police and Local Government Officers who have been working tirelessly to enact the demands made first by the Government and then by local politicians. It is sadly their role to carry out the requests made of them, not to formally challenge the decisions.
Whilst Theresa May is now being faced with her own words in the light of the Manchester attack, she should not do so entirely alone. Local Politicians in our Councils and our Police and Crime Commissioners are not just elected to govern the services they are involved with. It is their role to stand up for the services that they should be defending as well as governing. There are painfully few examples of local Tory Politicians across the UK who have over the last seven years stood up and argued for more resources from Government budgets. When the shortage of Police Officers within our Police Services is identified at periods such as this week, the Police and Crime Commissioners along with the Home Secretaries need to explain why they made the cuts they did. They need to be held to account for their actions!