Image: © Terry via Wikimedia Commons

UK police risk becoming “irrelevant”. Uh oh.

A new report says police numbers are falling and crimes are rising… and it’s the British government’s fault.

What it means: To help the government make decisions about how to run the country, the UK has a bunch of parliamentary committees, which involve a few MPs and/or peers (members of the unelected House of Lords) from different political parties (not just the one in power). The Home Affairs Committee is one of them, and it looks at what the Home Office (who are responsible for immigration, security and law and order) is or should be doing.

The Home Affairs Committee has just released a very critical report saying the Home Office has put the public’s safety at risk by not spending enough money on the police force. In 2010 the Conservative government (which is still in power now) cut police budgets by 18 percent. That meant less equipment, less crime-fighting technology and less police officers (about 21,000 less, to be precise). According to the report, crime rose by a third in the last three years, while the number of arrests and charges have fallen. It says the government need to put more money into the police force.

The report shows the trade-offs that were made when the Conservative government launched its programme of austerity (big cuts to public spending) eight years ago because it thought the UK’s budget deficit (how big the gap is between money it has and money it owes) was too large. A government gets a budget deficit when it is spending more money than it has coming in (governments get money from things like taxes and stuff it owns, like land or companies).

The Conservatives felt that having a budget deficit means a country is spending more than it can afford - in the same way that we can’t max out credit cards on cool stuff if we don’t earn enough money to pay them off. That idea has been widely criticised on the basis that government finances do not have to play by the same rules people and businesses do (governments can create money, for instance).

Read our explainers on government spending and government debt.

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