• Tony Hogg on police budget cuts:  “We need to hold our MPs to account…”

    23rd October 2015 | News | Claire
  • He said that he “could not underestimate the potential for high harm to policing as we know it.”

    Mr Hogg, with members of his team, was responding to my question at the meeting, which was webcast at County Hall.

    I was there, along with a small number of other councillors.

    I asked him about MPs and how helpful they were being in supporting the force in battling against the catastrophic cuts.  I said that I didn’t think that I had seen any public comments from them.

    Elected as a Conservative PCC in 2012, Mr Hogg added that his team had briefed MPs regularly about the budget cuts, but they had “come to terms with this rather slowly.”

    Mr Hogg thought that most Devon and Cornwall MPs had attended a private briefing session with the policing minister, but only around three (including Ben Bradshaw) had joined with him to deliver a petition to Downing Street, opposing the cuts.

    Mr Hogg politely asked me whether he had answered my question. I replied that I was disappointed not to have heard a public objection from MPs.

    Mr Hogg said he was “publicly agreeing” with me, adding:  “In a sense the public holds me to account. We need to hold our MPs to account up to Christmas.”

    He said he was urging the public to talk to MPs, adding:  “It’s almost out our hands now. We have done more than any other force to understand this. We are putting a final view to consultation period by 30 of this month and we will learn before Christmas what the full effect is.”

    Earlier this month, chief constable, Shaun Sawyer, announced that unprecedented cuts of around £54m would mean that the focus of policing would have to move away from low risk crime and instead remain only on the areas of highest risk.

    Dozens of police stations across Devon and Cornwall are now at risk of closure, even including Heavitree Road Station in Exeter. The city’s only station open to the public.
    The force, which covers the largest geographical police area in England, could see officer numbers reduced to 2,500 – down from 3,500 in 2010.

    A further 200 community support officers and 150 civilian support staff roles could also be axed.

    My other point related to police community support officers (PSCOs) and I issued a plea not to cut these roles, as, in Ottery’s case, Maria Clapp, is vital to the smooth running of Ottery. She is always present, visible and resolves all kinds of minor issues and disputes expertly and quickly.  If her role was lost it would be a huge blow to Ottery.

    Mr Hogg, outlined the financial challenges facing the force before saying that he and his officers had “agonised” about neighbourhood policing and the “huge contribution of PCSOs.”  He said that if the force has to deliver savings of £54m they might not even be able to do it, as they may not be able to make people redundant fast enough.

    I have criticised the office of police and crime commissioner many times since the elections in 2012 on the basis that I dislike the politicisation of the police force – and the resulting expense. I still disagree with the principle of PCCs.

    However, I was impressed by Mr Hogg’s candidness. He is clearly extremely unhappy and worried about the cuts – and is pursuing our interests at central government actively and openly. 

    But we need to take his advice and hold our MPs to account. Write to Hugo Swire at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    If you would like to watch the webcast, the above exchange is at 50.30 – http://www.devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/189725