June 29, 2010: Home Secretary's Speech to the National Policing Conference
"Not many people understand the weight of responsibility that rests upon the shoulders of a police chief constable. Like chief executives of large private sector companies, you manage multi-billion pound budgets, lead thousands of men and women, and devise strategies to succeed. Except, being a chief constable isn’t like being a chief executive at all.
"On Wednesday 2 June, Chief Constable Craig Mackey of Cumbria Constabulary went to work and found himself leading an armed police response to Britain’s worst mass shooting since 1996. Just days earlier, his officers had dealt with the tragic school coach crash near Keswick. And at the end of last year, it was Craig Mackey’s men and women who came to the rescue when Cumbria was devastated by floods. Being a chief constable is a job like no other – and I want to start by paying tribute to Craig and to all of you for the work you do.
"And let us not forget the work of the members of police authorities up and down the country. We might have our differences about the future of accountability in policing – and I’ll come to that later – but we all recognise the importance of listening to local communities. And I salute you for the dedication and sense of duty with which you serve your communities.
"I stand before you today as a new Home Secretary in a new government and I am about to tell you something that no Home Secretary has ever said before. I take no pleasure in that fact, because what I have to say is tough.
"Our country has the worst budget deficit of any major economy. The public finances are in the biggest mess that any of us have seen in our lifetimes. And as you saw in the budget, that means the Coalition Government is going to have to take tough action.
"The cuts will be big, they will be tough to achieve, and cuts will fall on the police as they will on other important public services." - Home Secretary Theresa May on June 29, 2010
"Like almost all of my colleagues in the cabinet, I have to cut spending in my department. The spending review has not begun yet, so we don’t know the exact figures, but I must be clear. We are not talking about a spending freeze, or a reduction of one or two per cent. The cuts will be big, they will be tough to achieve, and cuts will fall on the police as they will on other important public services.
"In the Home Office, I will be ruthless in cutting out waste, streamlining structures and improving efficiency. But these practical measures can only go so far, and together we have to make sure that – despite the cuts – policing must remain visible and available to the public.
"So we are going to have to make sure that every penny of your budgets is spent in the most useful possible way. As I told the Police Federation conference last month, we will honour the existing pay deal for police officers negotiated with my predecessors. And we will stand by the deal for other police staff too.
But we have to be realistic about what we can afford, so we will also undertake a review of police terms and conditions. Let me be crystal clear from the beginning: police officers and staff need to be ready, along with the rest of the public sector, to make sacrifices and accept pay restraint. It cannot be right, for example, that police overtime has become institutionalised. We may not win popularity contests for asking these difficult questions, but it is time for them to be asked.
"I want to work with you, the leaders of our police forces and members of police authorities, to make sure we get value for money wherever we can. I’ve said before that I don’t want to run the police, and I don’t – but there is no need to do everything 43 different ways.
"So in tandem with our reforms to make the police more accountable to their local communities, I am considering what matters should be delivered for the service nationally. For example, does it really make sense to buy in police cars, uniforms and IT systems in 43 different ways? Where central procurement is consistent with our desire to devolve responsibility and accountability downwards, and it saves money for the taxpayer, we will encourage it and facilitate it.