Why row over military budgets when Croydon needs more police?

By - Monday 6th August, 2018

As violent crime continues to grow, police numbers carry on falling

As surprising at it may be following Gavin Williamson’s, Minister of Defence, tirade demanding an increase in defence spending from 2.1% of GDP to 2.5%, and Trump’s recent ultimatum at the Nato summit for an increase to 4%, the UK is not currently at war. In real numbers, Williamson’s called for an increase in budget by £20 billion over the next ten decades.

I believe there is no need to make such a dramatic and overwhelming payment when it is evidently not needed. Britain already exceeds Nato’s 2% benchmark and has not needed to defend its physical borders since the Second World War. The conflicts of the future will be fought in terms of trade and cyber wars, but the struggles of the present are being fought on city streets.

While that might be an over-exaggeration, it is hard to deny how Croydon – and many other areas in London and the UK – is in desperate need of an increase in police numbers. In the twelve months leading up to April 2018, Croydon became the second most violent borough in London with an outstanding 11,762 violent crimes reported, remaining behind Westminster which saw 14,061.

One cannot ignore the impact of the Conservative austerity policy and the slashing of police budgets

The Croydon Advertiser reports that this is an increase of 1.34% from the following year, just as Metropolitan Police numbers reach a record low, for the last fifteen years, of 29,700. One cannot ignore the impact of the Conservative austerity policy and the slashing of police budgets on the lives of individuals throughout the country and in Croydon. Knife crime may not be rising in Croydon to the same extent as it is across the rest of London, but violent crime still is on the rise.

In February 2019, it is likely that the situation will only get worse as, in an effort to save money to help retain the number of active police officers, the Met has decided that a merger will take place between the police units of Bromley, and Croydon and Sutton. The move has already attracted criticism as it is likely that this will only stretch resources further for our local officers.

I think that now is the time to openly criticise the government who are simply placing a new and imaginary arms race with the USA and Russia above the security of its people; in my opinion, you cannot ignore or excuse these numbers. In May 2018, the BBC Panorama team published a documentary titled Police Under Pressure which clearly demonstrates how police services across the UK are struggling. If you’re struggling to comprehend the numbers, it’s worth a watch.

The US government is placing pressure on the UK to increase military spending

Notably, the American government are continually placing pressure on the British government to increase military spending, with James Mattis, the US defence secretary, hinting that France may replace the UK as America’s primary military ally if funding does not increase. Recently, Croydon’s police chief came out to state that he is doing the “best” he can. Chief Superintendent Jeff Boothe stated “it is not my place to say that we don’t have enough officers because that’s not going to change a thing”. And he is right: the government will simply not listen, as demonstrated by recent calls to increase an already sizeable defence budget even though the UK is not facing a major conflict.

In this same statement, Mr Boothe also went to address the increase in knife arches in children’s schools, saying that they are “there for the parents’ and the children’s safety and to help them not worry about school”. Yet the placing of arches is a constant reminder that there is a need to worry and there is a major and noticeable threat to our lives. I think that if there is a blatant need for knife arches in the entrances to schools, then it should be clear that knife crime needs to be tackled, and there needs to be an increased presence of police on Croydon’s streets.

The UN is investigating poverty and human rights in the UK under Cameron and May’s policies

The UN is launching an investigation in the UK to look at poverty and human rights – while this may not explicitly cover the current state of the emergency services, the report is expected to look at the impact of austerity policies under David Cameron and Theresa May.

The inquiry’s leader, Prof Philip Alston, told the Guardian that “the UK has gone through a period of pretty deep budget cuts first under the coalition and then the Conservatives and I am interested to see what the outcome of that has been”. It appears that as the long-term implications of austerity are beginning to come to light, the Conservative government is likely to be challenged over their history of budget-cutting policies.

I believe there is a direct correlation between decreases in police budgets and numbers and the increase in crime. Croydon is at the epicentre of this new spate of violent crime. Truly, the Metropolitan Police Service could use more funding and Chancellor Philip Hammond would do well not to provide Williamson and Trump with their demands.

Max Shirley

Max Shirley

Max recently finished Sixth Form at a local independent school and will be starting an English Literature degree in the new academic year. Max is a copy-editor at a Croydon-based start-up. Twitter: @max_shirley_

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  • Michael Swadling

    Max – I don’t disagree spending on Police does feel more important than spending on defense but have to differ on a couple of points.

    You may have forgotten the Falklands when you say “has not needed to defend its physical borders since the Second World War”. British territory a British people were held hostage by a foreign power until liberation.

    The wider point on austerity, we simply haven’t had any. The Tories are chief among those (but not exclusively) calling their spending plans the wrong thing. We still need to reduce spending to a level below which we take in taxes. Every year since the start of the century we have borrowed money and the country has gone further into debt. The debt will need repaying and is now so large it will come off the future taxes and in the form of reduced services for all of us today and a generation not yet born.

    • Anne Giles

      How true!

    • Max Shirley

      Thanks for the comment Michael. The Falklands War did indeed slip my mind when writing this piece, sorry about that.

      As you well know, austerity is a very complex issue and can’t be surmaised easily, but Tory spending cuts in certain sectors have had negative impacts.

    • Alan Reynolds

      I agree entirely. As a country we are living beyond our means (tax take). There have to be some cuts in spend if the Govt is reluctant to raise taxes. But switching spend from non-existent wars to fighting crime sounds a good idea,

  • Mark Johnson

    The Metropolitan Police Force is under the control of the Mayor of London not the British government. It’s up to Mayor Khan to run it properly. He is the only one to blame.

    • Max Shirley

      Hi Mark, thanks for your comment. Khan may be in control of the Met but he can only work with the funds May’s government supplies him. The Mayor cannot ‘magic’ more money when it’s in need. And while I agree that Khan has made mistakes in his premiership hitherto, some of the blame for these issues must lie with the people who decide his budget.

      • Mark Johnson

        He can move money from other areas (like PR) and reduce waste which can be diverted to the police. He can also raise taxes if he really wants. Blaming the government is easy but let’s Mayor Khan off the hook.