July 5, 2011

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Two stories caught my eye in the news. First, the President of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) said that government cuts threaten public safety.

Second, Health Chiefs warned that there would be more “terrible” instances of neglect and abuse of vulnerable pensioners unless the government acted now to pay find a way of paying for the care of the elderly.

 

Sir Hugh Orde, the President of ACPO has warned the government that plans for changing the police service risk "compromising the safety of citizens for reasons of expediency".

 

Sir Hugh says changes could "threaten the impartial model of policing" which is "revered across the world" if they are "mismanaged".

 

The message came in a conference speech by Sir Hugh, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers. He urged the government to be clearer about its plans. 

He said: "The service of last resort is going through a period of substantial change.

"Changes to accountability, changes to central structures and changes to pay and conditions, which if mismanaged could threaten the impartial model of policing that has existed for 180 years and is revered across the world.

"We understand the government's determination to deliver a substantial programme of reforms across the public sector, but we cannot afford to get policing wrong, and unless greater clarity emerges in the very near future I fear that we run the risk of compromising the safety of citizens for reasons of expediency."

He added that accountability has to be "a matter for government and not us" but called for clarity over plans to introduce elected police commissioners at a local level.

The government is planning to cut its £11bn funding for the police in England and Wales by 20% by 2014-15.

Time for the government to listen to the police and to think again about its plans to cut the numbers of front line police officers.

Meanwhile, economist Andrew Dilnott has suggested a limit on the paid by elderly people towards their care. He thinks that limit should be between £35,000 and £50,000 with taxpayers picking up the £2 billion balance. There are worries that government will reject this suggestion because of the cost and this has led to concern being voiced by the NHS. Mike Farrar, the NHS Confederation’s Chief Executive, has described the plans as “a make or break moment for the NHS. The enormous pressures that are facing social care will spill over into the NHS unless there is action to shore up the whole system. We need a solution. Otherwise there will be a financial crisis, patients and carers across the country will suffer and the cost to the taxpayer will be greater.”

It is clear that the government needs to act now to tell people how much they need to save for their retirement. Cutting pensions to teachers and other people in the public sector might sound like a way of cutting the deficit. But if it means that people wont have enough to pay for their care when they retire, it seems very short sighted. 

After all it will be the taxpayer who has to foot the bill for those who don’t have enough in their pensions to pay for their care. It would be better to find a way of everyone having enough savings and pensions to pay for their retirement. 

So rather then provoking teachers and civil servants into strikes, the government would do better helping people who work in the private sector to improve their pensions. 

I asked Michael Gove last whether the big rise in pension contributions the government expects from teachers was to pay off the deficit or to deal with the fact we have an ageing population. He didn’t say which and I think that is very telling.

Andrew Chidgey, head of policy at the Alzheimer’s Society says that the government appears not to want to take the action needed to make sure people have decent retirements. 

He said: “If politicians fail to tackle the vital questions of public interest it will be a betrayal of millions of people.” 

 

One idea is for insurance that we can all buy to pay for our care when we retire. Having some element of compulsory scheme for pensions and care costs would also have merit. One way or another we need to get pensions and care right. Macho posturing by the government is not going to help achieve that objective and they should take their time to work through a system with the public both for people employed in the public and the private sectors. 

We need negotiation and consensus on such a big issue otherwise there will not be a solution.