by Garth Harkness on 2 September, 2020
Traffic cops often feature in our television shows, but the harsh reality is that the traffic officers forming the thin blue line are too few and grossly underfunded, and the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council wants to do something about that.
Liberal Democrat Councillors are taking a motion to the next meeting of Oldham Council (9 September) calling for a restoration of funding for traffic policing to help prevent road deaths and for traffic policing to be made a priority in Greater Manchester.
Figures published by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy show a 34% cut in funding in real terms for road policing between 2012/3 and 2019/20 meaning less officers available to keep our streets safe.
The Deputy Group Leader, Councillor Chris Gloster is proposing the motion. Chris, a Shaw Councillor, is a former Greater Manchester Police Inspector with 30 years’ front-line experience, patrolling Oldham’s streets.
“A damning report published in July by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary showed that the investment in roads policing is totally inadequate. Due to years of chronic under-funding, traffic cops are left over-stretched, under-resourced and treated like a Cinderella service, though what they do is so vital,” stated Councillor Gloster.
“Road policing has had its budget cut by far more than any other Police department, and this has meant more lives have been needlessly lost and more people needlessly injured in road accidents. In just three years, between 2015 and 2018, the Conservative Government cut funding by a quarter. Not only did this mean less officers were available to police our streets, but it also led to an increase by a quarter in the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads. The lesson here is clear; investment in road policing saves lives,” he added.
Councillor Gloster is clear that under funding has led to less enforcement against drivers committing serious traffic offences which contribute to road accidents.
“The rise in road deaths and serious injuries is linked to a sharp decline in impairment testing. Drivers now get behind a wheel under the influence of drugs or drink, and we need to do more testing to tackle this.” Said Councillor Gloster.
“The Inspectorate report also showed that Police enforcement involving the reckless use of mobile phones by drivers and driving without a seat beat have slumped by as much as 75% since 2011. When certain drivers think they can get away with irresponsible and criminal behaviour, they will. To prevent this, enforcement is key and to have enough traffic officers to do this you need to invest in them.”.
The motion is being seconded by his colleague for Saddleworth North, Councillor Garth Harkness.
Garth and his Liberal Democrat colleagues have previously proposed that Oldham Council adopt several major initiatives to improve road safety across the borough, including:
• introducing a default speed limit of 20mph on minor residential roads
• calling for more funding for speed cameras at danger spots
• introducing gating schemes to keep our children safe when they are dropped off or picked up by their parents from school
• establishing more Speed-watch and Lorry Watch schemes to enable concerned citizens to support the Police in reporting traffic violations
• seeking more Police enforcement on pavement parking, and
• further investment in vehicle activated road signage to curb speeding.
Garth is passionate about road safety: “I was proud to propose several of these initiatives on behalf of the Liberal Democrat Group, but, unfortunately, the Labour Administration has chosen not taken any of these ideas forward in any meaningful way. I hope on this occasion they will at least back this motion as it is so important that we get more traffic police on our streets to help keep everyone safe, especially our children and elderly.”
In addition to calling for a restoration of Government funding and a Council response to the recent consultation, Councillors Gloster and Harkness want the Greater Manchester Police and Crime Panel to prioritise traffic policing in the local policing plan.
Councillor Chris Gloster ends: “The recent Inspectorate report clearly indicated that insufficient training and support was given by many Police Services to their traffic officers. This is not just about money, it is also about valuing traffic officers and giving them ‘the tools’ they need to do the job. I hope the Police and Crime Panel will feel able to give traffic policing in Greater Manchester the priority it deserves. We all have the right to feel safe on our streets”.
The motion to Oldham Council on 9 September reads:
Roads Policing ‘Not Optional’
Council notes that:
• In the last ten years, there has been no significant decline in the number of people killed and seriously injured on Britain’s roads, after decades of reducing casualties.
• According to Department of Transport figures, there are still on average 5 fatalities and 68 serious injuries in England and Wales every day.
• In early July, the Department of Transport published a public consultation document supporting a Roads Policing Review. The closing date for submissions is October 5th.
• In the preamble to that document, the Under Secretary of State for Transport said the review sought to ‘build the fairest and most operationally effective enforcement capability in police and other agencies to deliver the best outcome for the safety of all road users.’
• In the same month, the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary published a damning report which predicted an increase in road deaths because:
o According to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, there has been a 34% cut in funding in real terms for road policing between 2012/3 and 2019/20 leading to a reduction of police officers available for these duties.
o These officers receive insufficient training and operational support.
o Road policing is ‘seen as less of a priority than it should be’ in most local plans and there is an ‘unclear national strategy.’
• The HM Inspectorate called for urgent action as ‘roads policing is not optional.’
Council resolves to:
• Ask the Chief Executive to write to the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Transport, making clear this Council’s position that funding in real terms for road policing should be restored; that the HM Inspectorate’s recommendations be implemented in full as a priority; and that a new national strategy for road policing and safety should be developed.
• Ask the Chief Executive to send copies of this letter to the Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner, the Police and Crime Panel and our three local Members of Parliament to seek their support for the Council’s position.
• Ask the Council’s representative on the Greater Manchester Police and Crime Panel to request the Panel revisit the local policing plan to ensure that roads policing is sufficiently prioritised.
• Ask the Chief Executive, in conjunction with the appropriate Council officers and the relevant Cabinet Member, to make a submission to the Roads Policing Review consultation on behalf of the Council taking this resolution into account.
Councillor Chris Gloster
Councillor Garth Harkness