In these times of austerity, a constant series of cutbacks and redundancies seems to be a feature of everyday life in both the private and public sectors. Nothing is more frustrating than when the Government itself wastes huge sums of money in a ridiculous manner, and a prime example of this was the new Police chief farce. Held in November 2012, it was a flagship policy of the Government intended to make the police service more accountable. In reality, it was a shambles that was badly communicated, with most people left bemused as to whom they should be voting for and why.
The cost of holding the elections for the police commissioner is reportedly anything between £65 million and £110 million, which puts it on an equal footing with the staging of a general election. The difference here though was the voter turnout, which was far lower than a general election. In fact, just one in six of the electorate voted. Several reasons have been offered for this, but the main one is that people simply didn’t understand or even care about what was going on. Even a last minute television campaign aimed at increasing voter turnout failed to make any difference.
Another figure that has been bandied around is that each vote for a police commissioner cost the tax payer £14, and that only 41 commissioners ended up being employed as a result of this. If only that money had been put to better use! Indeed, if the elections had not been held, and the money had instead been given to the police forces, thousands of jobs could have been not only saved, but even created.
Creating jobs is the best way to get the country and the economy back on its feet, and here, a wonderful opportunity was lost. Instead of holding expensive and almost pointless elections for the commissioners, it would have been far better to save the jobs of frontline police, and put more bobbies back on the beat. This is what the vast majority of the population want anyway! It would seem, though, that the government was keener to pursue its political agenda rather than using plain old common sense.
Assuming that the election cost the upper end figure of £110 million, one can easily see just how many frontline jobs could have been saved or created. Taking £50,000 as the sum needed each year to keep a frontline police officer employed (this includes wages, training and other details), this equates to 1,700 jobs. Surely this would have been a better use of the funds earmarked for the misguided elections?
The police commissioner farce is just one example of how out of touch politicians are with the rest of the country. With these elections set to continue every four years, it would make sense to either find a more efficient and less costly way of holding them, or do away with them altogether. Keeping frontline police officers on the beat is surely a far more important priority, and offers far better value in terms of return for the money spent.