Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 3 December 2015


I am very pleased that the Chancellor was able to find sufficient funds last week so that the police budget for the next 4 years could be protected (along with health, schools and defence). The police have already had to manage substantial savings in the past 3 years and a period of consolidation is very welcome for our thin blue line. Crime is falling, but public confidence is built in part upon police presence and community engagement at which our local force is very good.

I am sorry that the absurd figures being touted by some as future cuts must have unsettled our committed and hard-working officers unnecessarily.

That is not to say that the police forces in the United Kingdom can stand still. They remain behind the curve on the use of modern technology, and their procurement practices are old-fashioned. 47 police forces is probably about 40 too many. We may need to see significant rationalisation in this sector: for example there could easily be one force for the seven counties of the south west, not 4.5 as now. The savings on chief constables and head-quarters alone would be substantial. Far better if momentum for these mergers happen from the bottom up, rather than imposed by government.

Speaking recently to professionals who interact with our police force in Devon and Cornwall it seems that we are behind most forces in deploying modern technology and working practices. I hope the next 4 years will see major advance in these fields.

I have another, more controversial, reason for welcoming the police settlement. We are entering a difficult phase in our national life. A strong Conservative government is always unpopular with a minority of our population. Already tensions are running high and this is reflected in some of the letters and e-mails we receive in my office. As the Labour Party, sadly, slides into an unpleasant civil war, many are feeling that there is no proper democratic alternative to the government.

This is not healthy. Every government needs a strong opposition. One consequence could be an increase in street protests and demonstrations as people seek to make their voice heard. Peaceful demonstrations are an important part of our democracy, but we know how easily they can spill over into violent confrontation, often spurred on by anarchists and trouble-makers.

In such times we will need the police to maintain public order. I am glad their funding has been protected.

posted by Gary @ 08:30