Posted: Friday 12th December 2014
Last week I was one of the many people following the search for Charlotte Bevan and her daughter. It was a desperately sad situation and the tragic outcome was the one nobody wanted. My thoughts are with her family and friends at this difficult time.
Despite the heart-breaking outcome I know the police used every resource they could to try and find Charlotte and Zaani and they had some valuable support from Avon and Somerset Search and Rescue. I’d like to publicly thank them for everything they did. With policing you never know what is around the corner – it could be a high profile search, a major child sexual exploitation investigation such as Operation Brooke or simply a particularly busy time. Whatever the police encounter they have to deal with it as best they can – and at a time when resources are becoming increasingly stretched.
Last week the Autumn Statement was delivered in the House of Commons and with it a promise of an additional £2bn funding for the NHS. It does a great job and is something we can all be proud of but a consequence of them having more money, and protected from cuts, is that we will have less. Whatever the outcome at the next election we’re probably going to see significant cuts to the police budget in the future which will leave us in a very difficult position.
By the end of the 2014/15 financial year we’ll have found £46m savings in the past five years – which was a challenging target and required some tough decisions along the way. We’re anticipating that we’ll have to find further significant savings in the coming years. We’ve already slimmed down the buildings we have and found new, smarter ways of working but we know there will always be a minimum level of accommodation, vehicles, kit and so on which is needed to do the job. To put it bluntly, we’re running out of places to look.
We’ll know more in the coming months about the scale of the challenges facing us.
The inevitable consequence to all this is that the police service is likely to be a slimmer one in the future and we need to keep finding ways to do more with less. One way to do this is through continued innovation and a good example of this is Track My Crime. It’s an online service that allows victims to check on the progress of an investigation and contact the officer leading the investigation. It’s a convenient way for some victims to stay updated at a time convenient to them and it makes life easier for officers too – but victims can opt to be updated through more traditional channels as well. The system was developed by Avon and Somerset Police and is also being taken up by other police forces – and Mike Penning, the policing minister, was given a demonstration of the service during his visit to Bristol last week.
This will be my last column before Christmas and so whatever you’re doing, I hope you have a happy, safe and crime-free holiday.