By Mark Burns Williamson
2015 brings its own challenges with budgets stretched ever tighter and difficult decisions on how to best spread resources having to be taken.
We also have the General Election in May and the current Government have to recognise that continually taking money away from a resource as crucial as policing is having long lasting implications and needs to be halted.
We have already lost a significant number of frontline officers and staff since the start of cuts in 2010/11 and more will follow compromising our ability to deliver unless the spending review with regards policing is not re-thought.
Against those challenges it is important to recognise the difficult job officers and staff do day in and day out working in our communities to keep them safe. They know the risks and tackle them daily on behalf of all our communities in West Yorkshire, but we must not forget the challenges facing them.
We must remember the sacrifices they make daily, how they put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe and secure living in a peaceful society we can be proud of. One that we should never take for granted.
Our diversity is also one of our greatest strengths and our communities are all the more richer for the different and wide ranging cultures contained within them, but sometimes tensions are raised.
2015 also brings with it opportunities and different challenges including the work being done to help victims of human trafficking with the creation of the dedicated Human Trafficking Unit, as part of West Yorkshire’s Serious and Organised Unit (SOCU) to investigate the most complex criminal cases.
That comes after we set up, in conjunction with the Hope for Justice charity, the West Yorkshire Anti Trafficking Network which is currently delivering important awareness training to 3,500 frontline staff and officers across West Yorkshire, as well as staff from partner agencies about how to spot the signs of trafficking and tackle it.
I believe the work we have undertaken so far and the work my office, West Yorkshire Police and our partners are planning going forward we will ensure West Yorkshire are leading the way and being a positive example on tackling Human Trafficking for other areas both nationally and internationally.
A College of Policing report recently titled Estimating Demand on the Police Service shows the increasing demand being put on dedicated officers and staff while budgets continually decrease, the significant cuts imposed by government fail to recognise the increasing complexity and demands faced.
While it is reassuring that overall crime has reduced in West Yorkshire, police officers are being required to deal with more complex crimes associated with Child Sexual Exploitation, public protection and safeguarding to name but a few.
This means more pressure put on officers, with one police officer for every 445 members of the public in 2014 nationally, an increase of 50 people per officer since 2010.
In spite of repeatedly pointing out to government the unfairness of the way cuts are made, every force area continues to get the same percentage reduction in grant irrespective of need, demand and threats.
West Yorkshire relies much more heavily on government grant, which pays for around 80per cent of our spending. We are therefore hit much harder by the cuts than other areas which equates to tens of millions every year.
The Home Office police grant figures mean that West Yorkshire Police has to find more than £33.8million in savings this year, on top of the £103m already made in the last three years…with a projection of at least a 40% budget cut overall by the end of the next spending review.
I maintain that this money needs to go towards frontline policing to help people feel safe, working ever more closer with our partners in local government, NHS, criminal justice, emergency services and our community.
This year will see me continue to go out and about across West Yorkshire, including Bradford, speaking to members of the public about policing and community safety and the concerns they face in their communities and ensuring our shrinking resources are effectively targeted.
To contact me visit www.westyorkshire-pcc.gov.uk.