TORY Essex police and crime commissioner (PCC) Nick Alston dramatically attacked his own party’s cost-cutting obsession yesterday as penny-pinching that had gone “too far.”
Mr Alston claimed reductions in officer numbers were “unavoidable” but admitted that changes had seen a rise in sick days and “worryingly high” levels of mental illness.
The county’s police force was told two years ago to find annual savings of £42 million — or 16 per cent of its £262 million budget — as the Con-Dem coalition demanded cuts from police across the country.
Essex Police stats show that mental health problems among its officers have doubled since their numbers were cut.
The average number of sick days taken has risen from 7.7 per officer in 2009-10 to 12 in 2012-13.
“Cost-cutting measures went too far in the area of occupational health and access to physiotherapy services,” Mr Alston said.
He noted that policing could be a dangerous and traumatic profession and that more needed to be done to support officers who received injuries.
Essex Police Federation chairman Mark Smith said he was glad Mr Alston had “finally” gone public over the problem.
“Officers are being driven into the ground, not only in Essex but around the country — rest days cancelled, forces run on overtime,” he told the Star.
“If government insists on further cuts, things will only get worse. We’ve said since 2011 — you don’t get more for less, you get less for less.”