Most of us, at some point in our lives, have to rely on our emergency services. From the local Barnsley police, to our ambulance and fire crews, the work these services do cannot be underestimated. These people serve us. The chilling attacks in Paris last week remind us how much we rely on them. They are the backbone of our communities, keeping us safe in our homes and on the streets. Even when we are away from home, mountain rescue and the national coastguard make sure that we can enjoy the outdoors, confident in the knowledge that should the worst happen, there is help we can call upon.
Before coming to power, David Cameron promised to protect these vital frontline services. He promised to keep Bobbies on the beat. He promised to keep ambulance response times within 8 minutes. He promised that he would continue to invest in the 999 services that protect us and our families. Just 6 months after the General Election, these promises seem all but forgotten, as the government rolls out an endless programme of cuts, devastating the very front-line services they promised to protect.
The latest statistics paint a bleak picture. Since 2010, the number of police officers on the front line has dropped by 12,000. Police chiefs across the UK have repeatedly warned that if the government goes ahead with further cuts they will be putting public safety at risk and putting an end to neighbourhood policing as we know it.
Meanwhile, our ambulance services are struggling to cope with increased demand, with nearly a third of call outs in Yorkshire not meeting the recommended response time of eight minutes. Use of taxis to respond to non-life threatening emergencies is now commonplace, as ambulance services are forced to target their limited resources to those most in need.
Local fire services too are under extreme pressure, with the closure of fire stations and loss of 5000 firefighter jobs nationally since 2010 resulting in an increase in average emergency response times by more than 2 minutes.
The government’s response to these alarming statistics? More cuts. I think this is wrong. Keeping people safe should be a priority of government, not an area for making savings.
We need robust and effective emergency services. It is a testament to their dedication that our police officers, paramedics and firefighters continue to work hard responding to emergencies despite the diminishing resources they have to do their vital jobs. I think they deserve better. And I think the people of Barnsley deserve better too.
The forthcoming Spending Review later this month will provide the Chancellor with an opportunity to put right these wrongs. I don’t think he will take this opportunity, but I will be holding him to account on the government’s promises to protect the frontline services that help keep us all safe.
This article was first published in the Barnsley Chronicle on 20th November 2015.