Our local police force does an incredible job keeping our community safe, but the conditions they face are challenging their ability to continue doing so.
That’s because whilst the damaging public sector pay cap I’ve spoken out against so many times in the past is still in place, an avoidable perfect storm has also emerged that is making our officers’ jobs so much more difficult.
For instance, in 2016 South Yorkshire Police received 220,755 emergency 999 calls – a increase of 13,385 calls from 2015.
But they’ve received 136,634 emergency calls up to summer alone in 2017, a number we can expect to rise significantly on last years.
And it’s not just emergency calls our local officers are having to deal with more of.
Last year South Yorkshire Police received 630,646 non-emergency calls for help. This year they’ve already received 510,147 calls. And it’s only September.
Hard-work is nothing new to our officers, and they encounter tough challenges every day of their lives. But in the face of this rising workloads there’s fewer and fewer of them left to share the burden.
Since 2010, South Yorkshire Police has been forced to cut 583 officers, removing around one-fifth of its operational strength.
Those that are left have faced a real-terms pay cut of £6000 in the same period – an appalling reward from the Government for the officers being forced to do the work of many more.
And there’s little cause for optimism in recruiting more officers to share this load. Many Police Community Support Officers face the prospect of a pay cut of hundreds of pounds if they join neighbouring forces to move up the ranks as a fully warranted Constable.
I brought up this perfect storm in Parliament, and questioned the Home Officer Minister on the problems our police face in keeping us safe in Barnsley.
“I am pleased to let the Honourable Lady know that police forces across the country, including Devon and Cornwall constabulary, are recruiting”, was the reply.
Well good for Devon and Cornwall.
Meanwhile, here in Barnsley there’s more 999 calls than ever before, an unprecedented strain on resources, fewer and fewer officers earning less and less pay, and little optimism for recruitment.
The situation is unsustainable, and it’s the wellbeing of Barnsley’s residents that’s at stake.