Traffic police axed as spending cuts bite

12.57 | 12 September 2011 | | 12 comments

Figures obtained by the Telegraph under a Freedom of Information request, reveal that many chief constables are cutting back on the number of officers they are allocating to roads policing.

Of the 35 forces who responded, 20 had cut the number of dedicated traffic officers and the overall reduction was 4.3%.

The Telegraph highlights Essex as an example: in May 2010 Essex Police had 268 officers specialising in traffic duties, but 12 months later their ranks had fallen to 221. The paper also points to figures showing that 24% fewer motorists were breathalysed in May 2011 compared with 12 months earlier – a consequence, it says, of the Government’s austerity programme.

The Telegraph article also refers to official casualty statistics showing that the number of people killed or seriously injured rose during the first three months of 2011 – the first increase in more than four years.

Robert Gifford, executive director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, said: “Roads policing is a key contribution to cutting casualties. Reductions in police officers will result in increases in risk on our roads.”

Kevin Delaney, road safety adviser for the Institute of Advanced Motorists, added: “Reductions in police budgets will inevitably lead to further reductions in traffic policing, a policy which has been quietly pursued by most chief constables for the past 15 years. In fact it is probable that funding cuts will bear most heavily on aspects of policing with lower internal priority such as traffic policing.”

The figures were seized upon by Maria Eagle, Labour’s transport spokesman, who said: “Coming on top of the Tory-led Government’s decision to axe road safety funding and targets for reducing deaths and serious injuries, the cuts in front line officers available to tackle traffic offences will inevitably lead to reduced safety on Britain’s roads.”

Mike Penning, road safety minister, defended the Government’s record, saying that forces would soon be testing equipment devices which could be used to provide evidence in court.

He added: “Britain has some of the safest roads in the world and the latest statistics show deaths and injuries continue to fall this year. It is for chief constables to deploy officers where they are most needed.”

Click here to read the full Telegraph report.


Comment on this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Report a reader comment

Order by Latest first | Oldest first | Highest rated | Lowest rated

    Is it just me, or do others see the irony of this in the context of recent mass unlawful behaviour in the form of riots? Is it just possible that the more society and its custodians of the law are unable or unwilling to tackle low-level crime, the less social responsibility and respect for all its laws and officers is developed? This has the inevitable consequence of an increase in higher-level crime. Most people need guidance to keep their moral compass pointing in the right direction all the time [dare I mention MPs expenses?]. Enabling low-level traffic violations by reducing the capability to enforce creates the tip of an iceberg.

    This is a much wider issue than roads policing or road safety; it is the fabric of our society being sacrificed for the sake of economics.

    Andy, Medway
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    My comments still stand, yes there is a need for civilian support but every time there is mass unemployment [except now of course] the flood doors are opened wide for the govnmt offices and the local authorities to take as many unemployed as possible and thus reduce the unemployed figures.

    This has happened with successive governments over the last 30 yrs or so. So what we end up with is a dirth of individuals with nothing to do. So we create quangos and stick them in there and also create jobs that were not there before just so govnmt can claim that unemployment is down.

    Statistics over the last 3 years has shown a so called decline in KSI on our roads and it therefore makes sense that if traffic accidents are down then we have little need for the traffic dept within the police service. The same argument could be made that we no longer need road safety officers within Local Authorities. That would save some monies.

    Logic isnt it.

    On the other hand what we need is the fortitude, experience and insight that Roy Buchanan shows. I know he thinks he is a dinosaur and like myself he is, but what he brings is experience and knowledge and common sense. Something that somewhere got lost.

    Stay with it Roy and don’t forget the brew that’s waiting for you up here.

    Bob Craven, Lancs
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I have just come back from France, driving from Calais to the Loire Valley and back, avoiding autoroutes where possible. The roads are clear, the traffic speed fairly fast, and road works minimal. There are no average speed cameras, We saw one pair of Gendarmes parked up with a hand held speed gun. Several villages sported automatic signs that showed the vehicle speed in green if below the limit, and in red if above – the green was followed by a ‘smiley face’ or “merci”, and limits were pretty well kept to throughout.

    Leaving Dover on the return to Hertfordshire around the M25, and we enter Hell. Cones being deployed with vigour over four sections separately, flashing overhead gantries demanding 40mph and lanes closed and in all four cases no works had commenced. The frustration these tactics cause was visible in an increasing defiance amongst many to ignore all such warnings. Automated traffic control is folly. Ther may be some instances where it is beneficial but in the main none of it replaces human beings in evidence and using discretion. The suggestion of stiffer driving tests to reduce congestion is misplaced. The driving test as is allows many to obtain a licence where they should not have one, congestion is due to many factors; excessive road engineering in restricting traffic; reduced width carriageways, excessive traffic signal deployment and rephasing of light sequencing; grossly expensive, uncomfortable and unreliable public transport; and – surprise – too many people pouring into the Country to live and work from other Countries. And yet, we still manage a pretty good safety record. Beats me.

    I used to enjoy riding and driving, it was a pleasure to get away some evenings and weekends. Today, the garden is becoming quite attractive. Growing food might well become a necessary replacement to travelling (and I’m no gardener!). Priorities are changing.

    Derek Reynolds
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Was this fate or a divine message?

    Shortly after my bleeding heart entry below, I spoke to a group of young people. The conversation turned to the topic of traffic. None of them knew my background so I inflamed the dialogue. One boy thought that traffic was out of control with drivers doing silly and dangerous things. He listed a number of incidents he sees frequently as he walks to school, most of which are offences. He then came out with the following gem. He said, “The trouble is, no one supervises them, so they do as they like. It’s a rat-race. What ever happened to speed cops?” The speaker was a 13 year old boy scout.

    May I thank Mark in Wiltshire for his very touching comments, he has restored my confidence.

    Roy Buchanan, Epsom
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Roy, you’re certainly not yesterday’s man.
    With guardians of common sense such as yourself, there may still yet be a light at the end of the tunnel. Long may you and others like you continue – please do so – for all our sakes.

    With gratitude and respect.


    Mark – Wiltshire
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    So Road Safety is once again a ‘political football’ – shame on this administration. Let us not forget that the Coalition inherited the lowest ever figures for road deaths in the UK when they took office.
    How will casualty figures ‘alter’ with reduced funding for road safety and roads policing? Time will tell, but it is a brave(or wreckless?)Government who plays Russian roulette with its citizens lives?…..
    I personally believe that any Minister who presides over an increase in deaths of citizens, where it can be proved that those deaths could have been prevented, should be prosecuted through the courts for the ultimate dereliction of duty.
    But what do I know!!!

    Susan, Northamptonshire
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I would like to bring to your attention the worrying fact that if the traffic police are cut back or are, as in the case of Essex, rolled into the mix with response teams. The role of the RSO dealing with the public and educating the people that need to be targeted e.g. those that break traffic laws daily will not exist.

    How can an RSO educate a non-seatbelt wearing driver or a speeding driver, it does not happen and these people avoid contact in the street when RSOs are out educating the masses. I can see a drop in the number of Road safety officers in the next year until the KSI figures rise again, unfortunately at the expense of peoples lives.

    Liam, Terra
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I am not surprised but this is nothing new, and Avon & Somerset Police decimated its road policing unit by some 50% many years ago.

    When I was serving as an RPU officer and a Police Federation rep for those officers on the RPU I was representing some 250 PCs on RPU duties, I was one of some 35 RPU motorcyclists throughout the force and Bristol RPU would field three cars in the city plus probably another 15 throughout the force area. Now I suspect that it is more likely to be less than half a dozen cars for the whole of A&S. Remembering of course that it has to police the M4, M5, M32, and A roads such as the A303, A4, A38 to name just a few.

    Before anyone belittles the role of the RPU officer I can tell you that when I was serving on the RPU we had a higher rate of good quality crime arrests than the CID, why is that, well surprise surpise criminals use cars and RPU officers develop a nose for the rogue vehicle. Reducing RPU officer numbers forgets the death toll of the roads but acts as a sop to those motorists and organisations who keep on about safety cameras etc. Keep RPU officers and you retain a highly professional, smart and skilled body of officers who given the time and freedom are prolific thief takers.

    Alan Hale – South Gloucestershire
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    This makes very depressing reading indeed. I see no point in reiterating all the facts and figures, backed by evidence, based on research, that I have poured out in these pages over the last few years supporting Traffic Divisions in the police. Since my last days in the Met and the 16 years that followed as an RSO in local government, I have campaigned vigorously for better roads policing. I frequently felt like a heretic railing against the Vatican, sympathizing with Galileo. Now retired, perhaps I should close the book and grow vegetables.

    Let me leave with you two anecdotes.

    The terrorist kills 20,000 people world wide, many in under developed, third-world countries. The motorist kills 35,000 people just in the highly developed, sophisticated EU. How would you apportion police resources?

    If the Fire and Rescue Service in Croydon had had a below-average number of incidents in the last five years, politicians may have decided savings could be made and reduced Croydon Divisional Fire Station to a local sub-station staffed by part-timers. Then the riots occurred – oh dear!

    In future, I will try to remember I am yesterday’s man when making comments that don’t amount to a hill of beans.

    Roy Buchanan, Epsom
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    During my 31 years of policing reducing the amount of paperwork was always talked about but the reality was the paperwork and bureaucracy increased exponentially. I think most of the roles Honor mentions are already carried out by support staff and police officers where Forces have been reluctant to penion people off medically resulting in officers unfit for front line duties carrying out ‘back office’ functions. We have already seen the consequences of too heavy a reliance on support staff with the recent strike action in Nottinghamshire. Something which is abhorant to serving officers, (or was in my day). The real issue here is the priority placed on roads policing which reflects political and public opinion. That’s what needs to change.

    David Short, Calderdale
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    It makes no sense at all to use a warranted, trained and costly police officer to undertake administrative, process, technical, maintenance of vehicles and equipment and other necessary work e.g. Scenes of Crime, telephone enquiries, crime prevention, ICT support, to name but a few. It is temptingly easy to come out with this kind of statement but every organisation has to be organised and administered in order to work efficiently. The civilian staff enable police officers to police their communities and do all the tasks that require a warranted officer.

    What we would all like to see reduced is the amount of procedure, paperwork and form filling that accompanies any arrest, search etc. Reducing the Processes to increase Output – that would make a real difference and would be a true efficiency saving.

    Honor Byford, North Yorkshire
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I wonder if a reduction of CID officers would fetch more publicity and maybe an outcry by the powers that be.

    Some 30 yrs ago for every one police officer there were 17 civilians backing him up and supporting him.

    Nowadays its not 17 it’s 40 civilians, all making his job more difficult. There are also some 20.000 civilian community officers, who were Local Authority street wardens at one time before Blunket brought them under the umbrella of the various police forces. For financial reasons only. So why not get rid of some civilians and leave the dedicated and experienced officers alone. Apart from CID that is.

    Wouldn’t pay chief officers and politicians with washers, never mind money. That’s what my mum says and she is 91 yrs wise.

    Bob Craven, Lancs
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.