PUBLIC SERVICES

For most of us, feeling safe in our homes, our communities and our country are things we take for granted – and we rely on public services such as our police, fire brigade and judicial system to maintain our safety and security.

Hopefully most of us will never have the misfortune to require these services personally, but if we do, we have to be confident that they have all the resources they need to ensure we can seek justice, stay safe and remain secure.

As essential as these public services are, they too have been subject to relentless cuts to under the Conservatives austerity programme, and as a result our towns and villages are exposed, vulnerable to violence and harm.

Under the Conservatives, from 2010:

  • National police officer numbers have been slashed by 21,000 – in real terms in Essex, that’s 646 fewer police officers and 345 fewer police community support officers (PCSOs).
  • In Essex violent crime is up by 29%, public disorder is up by 25%, weapons possession is up by 24%.
  • Harwich police station closed to the public in 2016.
  • As a result of budget cuts, Essex Police announced an end to responding to ‘minor incidents’ in 2015.

The Fire Service have also suffered:

  • Funding was cut by 30% between 2010 and 2015 and will fall by a further £155 million in 2019/20, that’s another 15% cut from 2016/17.
  • The number of firefighters in the Essex has fallen by 20% since 2010.
  • Dovercourt fire station will lose its full time crew in March 2020, becoming an on-call station only.

The Conservatives have also significantly undermined access to our justice system by decimating legal aid services…

  • Legal aid has been withdrawn from areas of law including family, welfare, housing and debt. The act which introduced this (Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012) also lowered the means test and removed automatic eligibility for those receiving means-tested benefits – cruelly targeting those most in need of the service and those without the means to finance their own action.
  • The law intended to ‘save’ £350m, but eventually succeeded in slashing the budget by more than £600m per year.
  • Statistics show that, by the end of 2018:
    • Around a million fewer claims for legal aid were being processed each year.
    • Up to a million people live in areas with no legal aid provision, with a further 15 million in areas with just one provider.
    • For cases of family law, Colchester and Tendring local authorities have only 2-5 legal aid providers each – 47 areas have just one provider and 36 have none at all.

And the outsourcing of probation services for all medium and low risk offenders to private companies in 2014 resulted in:

  • Poorer services for offenders, adding pressure on prisons and increasing risks to the public.
  • 80% of the 21 companies delivering the services were deemed inadequate in at least one key area, and many in several areas.
  • 19 of these companies failed to meet targets for reducing the frequency of re-offending, and re-offending subsequently rose by 22% from 2011 to 2017.
  • Between January 2015 and September 2018, the number of offenders returning to prison for breaching their licence conditions increased by 47%.
  • The government have been forced to bail out the failing companies by more than half a billion pounds.
  • Our prisons are over-crowded – in some cases by as much as 169%.
  • Our most experienced prison staff are leaving in droves (from 2015/16 to March 2018 alone an increase of 109%) because of soaring levels of violence, lack of support for job-induced mental health issues and low pay.

And those are just the ‘headlines’, behind these statistics are the real families who have suffered terribly at a time when they are at their most vulnerable.

A Labour government will:

  • Recruit 22,000 frontline offers and rebuild the whole police workforce, recruiting more PCSOs and police staff.
  • Provide police officers, PCSOs and civilian staff with the equipment and resources required to provide effective policing services.
  • Recruit at least 5,000 new firefighters, evaluate safe staffing levels and consult on national minimum standards for the service.
  • Provide an immediate 5% pay rise for public sector workers, with year-on-year above-inflation pay rises to follow.
  • Establish in law a standards body for fire prevention, protection and intervention.
  • Restore all early legal aid advice, including for housing, social security, family and immigration cases and recruit hundreds of new community lawyers.
  • Consult on the civil legal aid means-test levels and act on the criminal legal aid review.
  • Restore prison offer numbers to 2010 levels, and properly value prison and probation staff to ensure professional standards.
  • Re-unify probation and guarantee a publicly run, locally accountable probation service.

The future is ours to make.

It’s time for real change – for the many, not the few.

See the full version of the Labour Party Manifesto for more details.