Text book response


Sir Hugh Orde, President of the Association of Police Officers, has responded to proposed budget cuts by warning that it will mean reduction in the number of front line police officers. He says, "It would be misleading in the extreme to suggest the size of this service is sustainable."

This is not true, of course. It is a text-book response to proposed budget restrictions in public services. Always the claim is that it will be the most popular aspect of the service which will have to be cut. In this case it is the number of police on the streets.

One famous case was when US customs faced a cut and immediately took out the staff who looked for drugs coming in at airports.

The purpose is to pressure the political leaders by exposing them to hostile public opinion, with a view to weakening their resolve on the proposed savings. Never is it backroom or bureaucratic jobs that are proposed for cuts, because that would not achieve the purpose.

It is called rent-seeking, and is designed to maximize the amount of public funds directed to their department or service. It is without merit, and government should respond accordingly.