September 14 2010
Senior police officers have issued a stark warning about whether deep cuts to law enforcement budgets will leave them unable to cope with a return to 1980s-style industrial unrest.
The president of the Police Superintendents’ Association will tell his members in a speech on Wednesday that the country needs a “strong, confident, properly trained and equipped police force” to cope with any civil disturbances prompted by the coalition government’s austerity measures.
Chief Superintendent Derek Barnett will say: “In an environment of cuts across the wider public sector, we face a period where disaffection, social and industrial tensions may well rise.”
He will add that there “would be consequences” if cuts to police funding were too severe.
Mr Barnett’s comments echo the sentiments of the Police Federation, the body that represents tens of thousands of rank and file officers. Paul McKeever, chairman of the federation, said earlier this year that he was worried the UK could suffer race riots and industrial unrest over the next few years.
Senior officers have reacted angrily to claims that they are “scaremongering” in an attempt to protect jobs and wages.
Police forces are facing up to the prospect of cuts of about 25 per cent to their budgets as the government implements brutal spending reductions across Whitehall.
The Police Federation warned last week that the cuts would lead to the loss of up to 40,000 police officer jobs over the next few years.
Theresa May, the home secretary, has insisted that the police will not receive any special treatment in the forthcoming spending review even though some Tory backbenchers are unhappy about the prospect of fewer officers.
When Margaret Thatcher became prime minister in 1979 one of her first actions was to increase police wages even as she slashed budgets elsewhere. The police played a central part in battles with the trade unions, including the National Union of Mineworkers in the 1980s.
However, Mrs Thatcher’s move came after a period during which police spending had lagged other areas. By contrast, the present-day police service has received a huge increase in funding over the past decade and employs a record 144,000 officers.
Ms May will address the Police Superintendents’ conference on Wednesday