On Monday I spoke at an event — organised by Labour and alongside several other trade unions representing public sector workers — on the impact of cuts to public services and our safety and security.
This is an issue that has been at the heart of our political campaigning for years, and we have not let up in our demands for an alternative, but it is clear that recent events in London and in Manchester mean it is now at the centre of the political debate.
It is absolutely clear that the only people to blame for Saturday’s horrific attack were the men who so callously carried out such a despicable and cowardly act.
The response from emergency services was absolutely fantastic and I want to pay tribute to all those who responded so bravely and professionally, saving many lives.
It was right that national campaigning was suspended the following day. But when Theresa May stood outside Downing St and gave her response to the attack, it was transparently political.
By making such a political statement in response, I believe it is only right that her own record is interrogated and her decisions — both as Prime Minister but also as Home Secretary for six years — questioned.
Our members are on the front-line, from Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and Met police civilian staff, to Border force staff and those in revenue and customs, yet they have been under sustained attack from recent Tory governments.
PCSOs have been cut by 3,143 since 2010 in London. That’s a staggering cut of 68%. Nationally the figure is 39%.
PCSOs provide a vital link from the local community. Given that the focus on intelligence-based policing and getting a feel for what the what goes on in the community is seen to be very important as part of a counter-terrorism approach, I think those kind of cuts speak volumes.
We know that as a result of the cuts many PCSOs now patrol on their own when it used to be deemed they had to walk around in pairs for their own safety, increasing risk.
Those that are left are being taken off of front-line duties to fill back room roles that have also been slashed by the Tories. This is a crucial point; cuts to backroom and civilian staff have a direct impact on front-line roles. The number of police officers on our streets is one thing, but we don’t hear enough about how many police staff those officers have working with them and the impact these so-called ‘back-office’ cuts have on public safety.
This is not just the case with police support staff. The Border Force — our first line of defence — has lost 625 jobs in just two years. In April 2015 FTE figures were 8,198, but by the end of 2016 numbers had fallen to 7,573.
On top of this, there was also a recruitment ban in the Border force last year, which the Tories were forced — eventually — to lift as the situation was reaching breaking point. But we know from our members the pressures from lack of staffing and resources have not gone away.
It’s a similar picture in HMRC where staff need to be at the border in order to open lorries and inspect what’s in them. But HMRC’s Building our future programme of cuts and office closures means staff will be nowhere near 5 of the top 10 freight ports, with the nearest HMRC staff for Southampton — a major port with high smuggling rates — in Croydon.
While it would be folly to say “if it wasn’t for this cut, that wouldn’t have happened”, what we can say is that the figures speak for themselves and questions need to be asked — you need to put resources in to continually keep people safe.
Our members have been trying to get the story of public sector cuts and their impact on our communities, our safety and our security across for a long time. It’s our job to hold the politicians making the decisions — particularly Theresa May as Home Secretary — to account.
Austerity hasn’t worked. Cuts have seriously damaged our public services and this election offers a choice between more of the same or an alternative of investment and public spending. That is why I will be voting Labour on 8 June.