The Great Miners’ Pension Robbery

Written by Gerard Darcy

Please note, this article is entirely based on Dave Douglas’ work. Dave is a former Miner and NUM official (from the NE), now retired. But, he’s still active and standing as a trustee of the Miners’ pension fund. We wish him well and success in his endeavours – he’s on Facebook


Pensions are just a recognition that workers who have invested their life, skills in their industry and often their flesh and blood need to be sustained, so when they have given their all and reached retirement age, their pensions are simply deemed as “deferred wages”.

In many cases, the employer sets aside a weekly sum of money, based on the years of service, to look after the workers when they reach the end of their working life. This is a right and was not a gift: it is part and parcel of the workers’ wages, part of their terms and conditions, given in exchange for their labour – the “deferred part” of their wage.

A Brief History Lesson

In the coal mining industry after 1975, a pension was a condition of employment. So the employer, in this case, the NCB (National Coal Board) set aside a pension fund – separate, ring-fenced and distinct from business operations. It is illegal – not to say immoral – for any company or employer to abuse the workers’ trust and that pension fund – think about Robert Maxwell’s crimes. It does not belong to the employer: it is the workers’ accumulated wages, set aside for their retirement. When the modern draft of Mineworkers Pension Scheme (MPS – introduced in 1975), miners were invited to contribute directly from their weekly earnings to boost the pensions, they would receive. So, for every £1 the employer paid in, they also paid a £1. This was all still their money. The MPS investment was 100% our deferred wages. It was never 50% theirs (NCB) and 50% miners: it was all for the miners. The clue’s in the name: “Mineworkers Pension Scheme.”

After the defeat of the 1984-85 Great Strike the mines started to close rapidly. Redundancy payments accounted for a sudden black hole in NCB finances, now that there was less coal and less profit to pay for them. The renewed war on the mines began in 1992 and after another year of resistance, many of the miners were bought out of resisting closures by enhanced redundancy terms.

At the same time big compensation claims were being won in the courts and the NCB/ British Coal Corporation found itself with huge bills to pay for crippled miners’ hands, lungs and lives. It was at this time, that the Coal Board launched the first of its pension raids. This took the form of breaching the contract of employment (MPS was a condition of service: i.e. it was not a voluntary scheme) by withholding its 50% contribution: that is, the money that miners had already worked for. In 1987, they took a ’pensions holiday’ and stopped the payment of some £870 million for three years. There were more pension holidays in 1991 and 1994 and a surplus of over £5bn was creamed off during that time. These “pension holidays” are only on the employers’ side and many have been taken elsewhere in local government and other public sector pension schemes – it’s simply a way for employers to dodge their obligations as employers. 

As usual, disinvestment in the pension scheme began under the Tory government of the late 1980s.

‘Guarantor’

A fear was floated that the MPS and the miners were now on their own: should the scheme fail, or our investments flounder, the miners would lose all or part of our pensions. The fund needed a ‘guarantor’, who would help the fund ride out any trough and allow it to recover. But, the obligation to provide one fell squarely on the shoulders of the government, which had created the situation by leaving the miners on their own. It then insisted on a 50% share of all the miner’s investment profits, without the slightest moral or financial justification.

Let’s be clear – If the government was proposing some joint business investment which allowed them to share 50% of the returns, they would have had to match the value of the investment the miners had already made – directly through their wages and indirectly through their deferred wages/pensions. They could then justify taking half of any profit. But the truth is, they had not paid a penny into it. Yet, just to be sure it would not cost them anything, they insisted that the Miners’ develop a financial ‘safety net’ – a contingency fund ring-fenced for any sudden drop in investments. That was the Miners’ own money, not theirs. They were safeguarding themselves against ever having to pay anything out in return for the vast sums they had drawn out.

Again, one wonders why the trustees were not challenging such an unprecedented piece of financial skulduggery – a burden not imposed on any civil servant, police or Post Office pension fund (yet). This was never ‘an agreement’: it was a ‘take it or leave it’ imposition. Miners have heard a lot about the pensions ‘surplus’, but this should be clear that this is the money which remains from investment returns after pensions have been paid. It is only ‘surplus’ because payments are too low.

The short way to solve the government’s theft of the ‘surplus’ is for there not to be any! So, increase the regular pension, the miners actually receive. Miners have protested about this for years, through mass petitions, demos, conferences and trying to nail down MPs who’d listen to their arguments. This finally started to win through this year (2020) and, since the government could stand the stink of it no longer, they allowed an all-party parliamentary committee to set up a national public enquiry.

This examined in detail the whole history and financial operation of the scheme. The report which resulted was unanimous: there was not and never had been any justification for a government of any hue taking money from the miners’ pension investments; that the responsibility for securing the fund lay unconditionally with the government; that governments cannot make financial and commercial profit from state employees’ pension investments.

The committee went on to point to the £1.2 billion ‘reserve fund’ and how unlikely it was that it would ever be needed, given the rapidly declining number of miners week on week and the good health of the pension investments. This fund should at once be paid back into the miners’ operating fund to raise the pensions of miners and their widows by an average of £14 a week – which would be a lifeline to many miners’ families. The clear conclusion of the committee was that Miners should not be contributing anything towards a fund guarantor, as this was the government’s obligation. The Miner’s union’s understanding is that all the monies wrongly taken out ought to be repaid into the fund.

The Johnson Government and its response

As usual, the PM wrote cheques that quickly turned worthless

Great excitement was generated in the socially deprived coalfield areas, and chinks of light appeared to be breaking through. After all, Boris Johnson, in response to a direct question at a public meeting, assured those listening that all money wrongly taken from the miners’ pensions would be repaid. The findings of the all-party committee could not have been better, and the miners were optimistic. However, the current Conservative Energy Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan slammed the door shut, saying the scheme was fair to both “the members and the taxpayers”. She forgets that Miners have paid tax all their working lives and continue to pay tax on the pension, and that the money she is talking about was not raised and invested by random “taxpayers”, but exclusively by the miners! In an unbelievable burst of arrogance, she told them that they have the right to benefit, but “the government has taken on all the risk”.

Simply put, only the miners experienced the risk to accumulate this money, not governments. Then, the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy tells the Miners that the fund is 30% better off as a result of the government underwriting it. Firstly, that’s a figure plucked out of the air with little or no basis. But, even if as true, it was the Tory government which closed down the NCB/BCC and left this vacuum. The government created the need for a guarantor and is duty-bound, having created the uncertainty in the first place, to underwrite it.

To date, retired miners have paid the government £4.5 billion, without it costing them (HMG) one penny. Combined with the previous ‘contribution holiday’, this comes to a total of £9.5 billion. So the miners and dependants are owed £9.5 billion by the government! Now is the time for justice and to set right this great wrong.

What you can do:

  1. Phone or Write to your local MP – c/o The House of Commons, see details below. 
  2. Lobby the Labour Party to correct this historic wrong
  3. Watch for any updates on this campaign and get involved

Labour Joins UDC Listening Event

Last week Uttlesford District Council held an engaging and well-attended listening event designed to enquire into the experiences of BAME residents of the district.

Two of our Executive Committe members, Sam Naik (Women’s Officer and VC Membership) and Sanjukta Ghosh (Policy and Women’s Officer) were invited to speak and give their views.

We hope all members spare a moment to watch our friends in action:

Lockdown Reading

Stuck for something to occupy you whilst stuck inside on these dark winter nights? Our own Samantha Naik (BAME Officer and Membership Vice Chair) has kindly authored a few book reviews to help you pick a good read.

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists – Robert Tressell (1914)

In the early twentieth century, a group of painters and decorators and their families in a small town are exploited by their employers, and suffer from ill health, low life-expectancy, insecure housing, humiliation, and poverty. Some act with generosity and kindness; others go along with the Conservative and ‘Liberal’ (of that era) masters, believing they are their betters, and that socialism is evil; a few socialists persevere knowing that one day they will win.

This book has inspired many activists. It shows us what it was like to live in poverty, with no welfare state, and it is the answer to the elitist fiction of Ayn Rand; the workers are skilled and talented, yet cannot make a living. It surprised me that the issues of a century ago are similar to those that trouble us today: approximately 20% of working people in 2021 are poor (and this statistic is set to rise during the COVID19 recession) and may be in insecure employment, rents are exploitatively high, homelessness is a risk, and poverty causes ill-health. Back then too,  the Conservatives demonised poor people while cutting benefits. The mystery of ‘why do poor people vote Tory’ was very much in evidence in the early 1900s, too. Tressell skilfully told this story, with characters, good and bad, that will live on in your mind long after you close the book. An inspiring read.

The Warmth of Other Suns – Isabel Wilkerson (2010)

A non-fiction book that reads as a novel, with characters that are truly real. Beautiful descriptions, interspersed with the harsh reality of life in the USA for black people, after the abolition of slavery. What methods of painful exploitation could the South invent, to continue to control the black workforce, even in the aftermath of slavery? Why has it been difficult for black people to amass wealth, compared to their white counterparts, so that generations later, black people still suffer the historic injustice of ‘Jim Crow Laws? These questions are answered, in Pulitzer Prize winning fashion, by historian Wilkerson.

The great migration of Black Americans from southern states to northern states in 1915 to 1970 was not something I had contemplated: the bravery of those who sought new lives due to cruelty of racism, each of them taking a leap into the unknown, and often finding that the racism followed them. It is also useful to consider current racism in the USA and UK has developed from doctrines of white supremacy that were needed to justify the cruelty. The racism inflicted by southern states was not so long ago – racial segregationists were still arguing their case in the 1970s.

Both books show that race and class are used by the ruling powers to exploit people, without conscience, for material gains – even in rich countries where there are enough resources for everyone to live decently.  We see this in ex-President Trump’s ‘culture wars’ that set citizens against Muslims, Mexicans, and anyone who challenged fascism. We see it in the Tories demonisation of refugees, veneration of statues of slavers, and the slagging off poor people – refusing to trust poor people with money and instead giving vouchers for £5 worth of food (as happened in January 2021) as replacement for school meals, and calling such a pitiful parcel a ‘hamper’ (while charging the taxpayers a much higher price). The corruption portrayed in Tressell’s novel is evident in modern Tory Britain. 


The election of Biden may signify a turning point in the USA. Under would-be-dictator Trump, racial injustice came to an ugly head, with the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 and subsequent BLM protesters being tear-gassed, and the White Supremacists roused to insurrection and attempting to overthrow democracy in January 2021. In America, things must (hopefully) become fairer, because racial justice is now an issue that is recognised by the majority of US citizens. 


Perhaps Biden can also help us make the UK fairer too. Here, BAME people suffer health inequality, evident from the Marmot Reports of 2010 and 2020, and have died in disproportionately high numbers from COVID19. Whatever happens in the next four years, I think Biden will help move our discussion back into rational areas – and that can only be a good thing.

Labour Highlights Local Housing Crisis at Manifesto Launch

Some of the Labour candidates and activists who attended the launch

Labour launched its manifesto for the Uttlesford district council elections on Saturday with a call to deal with the local housing crisis and defend public services from cuts.

Recently published figures show that the council housing waiting list surged 37.6% in 2018 to 1,112 households as over 300 more households found themselves in housing need. The rate of growth was the tenth highest in England and the highest in Essex. In contrast, the overall number of households on council waiting lists fell 3.5% in England and declined 3.2% in Essex. Meanwhile, Uttlesford had the highest social rent costs in Essex and the thirteenth highest in England, outside London.

Daniel Brett, Labour candidate for Stansted South and Birchanger, said: “Hundreds more households are being driven into poverty and housing need due to soaring housing costs and failing housing policies. Labour’s district manifesto sets out our objective of achieving 2,500 new council homes by 2030 through the delivery of garden communities and the establishment of a council-owned housing development company as part of the council’s commercial investment strategy.”

Guest of honour at the launch Daphne Cornell, former Labour councillor for Saffron Walden Castle ward and twice mayor of Saffron Walden, said: “It’s very easy saying no to everything the Conservatives do and promising the world, but this manifesto is marvellous and is a real alternative. There is a housing crisis and we need social housing. When I say social housing, I want council housing.”

Simon Trimnell, candidate for Castle ward and chair of the local Housing Board, said: “I want a fairer community where everyone has a chance to raise a family, without being pushed out because of housing costs. I want people to have the opportunity I got to have a council home in their community when they cannot afford market housing. Labour is the party of Saffron Walden and Uttlesford. We want to look after the whole community.”

 Labour candidates for Castle ward Laura Snell and Simon Trimnell with former Saffron Walden mayor and Labour councillor for Castle ward Daphne Cornell

Yvonne Morton, former Labour district councillor for the former Plantation ward and now candidate for Shire ward, said: “When there was a Labour group at Uttlesford, we achieved a lot. We were able to chair committees and get access to policy documents, so we could advance Labour values even when the council was Conservative controlled.”

Gerard Darcy, candidate for Great Dunmow South and Barnston, said: “Labour councillors will help transform the district. Labour is already changing the debate. We’re not Nimbys, we have a full set of policies that will create a better district and we’re excited about the possibility of playing a part in shaping Uttlesford’s future.”

Labour’s Uttlesford manifesto, which contains 42 separate policy
proposals, can be downloaded here:
http://labour4saffronwalden.org.uk/manifesto/

Library Battle Is Not Over, Despite ECC Agreement to Cough up £10,000

Stansted Labour Party warns that the fight to save the community’s local library is not over after Essex County Council agreed this week to pay £10,000 towards rent of the Stansted Exchange and foot the bill for the refit of the library.

Essex County Council had agreed to rent the library space in the £1.2 million building at a rent of £13,000 per annum plus a contribution to running costs. However, just days before the lease was due to be signed, ECC launched a library strategy consultation that put the library in the Tier 4 category, scheduling it for closure. The new multi-purpose building, which includes parish offices, opens next month after years of work, during which ECC committed to supporting the project.

Stansted Labour spokesman Daniel Brett, who is a member of the parish’s library working group that prepared Stansted’s response to the consultation, said: “The parish council was forced to hike its precept by around 10 percent to cover a shortfall that was mostly related to the uncertainty over the lease. It would have been better for residents if ECC could have listened to parish protests months ago so that the parish did not have to resort to raise taxes.

“The offer of £10,000 falls short of the annual rent expected and seems like the ECC is trying to squirm its way out of potential legal difficulty. It also suggests that Essex only plans to rent the space for nine months, potentially withdrawing the service in January next year. We have been handed a small amount of extra time to respond to the consultation outcome due in June, should alternative plans have to be made for the library.

“Labour supports the parish council’s position that there is firm evidence Stansted library has been wrongly classified and, based on past usage, local deprivation and rural isolation, it should be re-categorised as Tier 2 and kept open and properly staffed. We believe no libraries in Essex should face a withdrawal of services and the county council should honour its statutory responsibility to maintain a comprehensive library service.

“If Stansted and Thaxted libraries are closed, Labour will urge Uttlesford district council to step in and pay for the rent – totalling £20,000 across both libraries – and the cost of librarian staff to cover the opening hours as well as creating user groups. This could cost up to £50,000 per annum and is well within the means of UDC’s Communities and Partnerships budget.”

 

Uttlesford Tories Chasing Prestige Projects at the Expense of Community Sports

Uttlesford should help local football clubs get league promotion

Uttlesford District Council is plunging vast amounts of money into prestige projects in the Saffron Walden area at the expense of other parts of the district, said Stansted South and Birchanger Labour district candidate Daniel Brett following the authority’s annual budget.

The council rejected proposals by Stansted district councillor Geoffrey Sell to reallocate £500,000 of proposed spending on a running track at Carver Barracks to a new reserve for community infrastructure including sport provision.

At the full council meeting, Daniel Brett said: “Stansted football club is set to win the Essex Senior League, but to be promoted it needs to invest to meet the requirements for pitch and facilities, which it shares with the cricket club at Hargrave Park in Stansted. It was not promoted in 2010 because it failed to meet the requirements. It is unfair that vast resources are allocated to Saffron Walden while successful community sports groups in the south of the district need funding to grow and improve.”

After the meeting, he said: “I am disappointed that the Conservative administration rejected the motion and seems fixated on putting a lot of money into projects in the north of the district. Even some Saffron Walden councillors noted that community sports groups in their wards did not support the expensive running track, which still lacks clarity and certainty.

“Labour believes that community sports groups are fundamental to boosting participation in sport for people of all ages. We want to spread expenditure across a range of facilities, helping to improve facilities at community sports clubs in order to benefit the most amount of people. We believe it is only fair that successful community sports clubs get a share of funding.”

Uttlesford is Staring Down the Barrel of a Gun with Risky Investments

Chesterford Research Park, as seen from outer-space

Saffron Walden Labour Party is calling for a complete rethink of the investment strategy, warning that Uttlesford is taking major risks by seeking to raise £100 million in debt without any comprehensive investment strategy.

Speaking at the full council meeting on Thursday, spokesman Daniel Brett said: “The investment programme lacks a coherent strategy, ignores emerging risks, has no professional asset manager oversight and is focused on one asset – the Chesterford Research Park – which is in one niche sector and in one ward in the far north of the district.”

Uttlesford agreed to go ahead with borrowing £100 million in addition to the £50 million already borrowed for the CRP investment, backed by the Tories and three R4U councillors. It will also set up an investment committee comprised of councillors to consider how to spend the money.

Speaking after the meeting, Daniel Brett said: “We have to acknowledge that the council is forced to borrow to invest due to massive cuts in local government spending by the Tory government. The council is staring down the barrel of a gun because it is trying to be an investment manager without professional expertise.

“A fat round number has been plucked from the air with some vague aspirations determined by amateurs in the council with no idea of what return they are seeking or how they will achieve it. Uttlesford Tories are determined to allocate most of the investment to the CRP regardless of risk – Brexit in the short-term, over-supply of research park property in the medium-term and the long-term economic cycle.

“Labour believes an investment strategy, drawn up by professional asset managers, is crucial. We believe in spreading risk across a range of asset classes with varying risk exposure, including fixed income, funds managed by external asset managers and venture capital. There are far more investment targets that are worthy of consideration in Uttlesford, particularly as we have an international multi-modal transport hub in Stansted that the council fails to capitalise on.

“Ultimately, we believe Uttlesford should approach other councils in Essex to build a £1 billion sovereign wealth fund which would have more financial muscle and can afford the asset management expertise to deliver higher returns with risks properly hedged.”

Labour Backs Cross-Party Campaign Against Library Closures

Saffron Walden Labour Party supported the demonstration outside Saffron Walden Library on 2 February, alongside the Liberal Democrats and the Residents for Uttlesford parties.

Saffron Walden town spokesperson Simon Trimnell said: “The Labour Party will always be open to working with others to defend our hard-won public services from attack. Opposition parties in Uttlesford are united in opposing these Tory cuts. The Labour party will continue to fight ideologically motivated austerity at all levels of government. It is a sad day when politicians working together a cross party lines for the common good is viewed as a source of suspicion.

“We support keeping all libraries open as a community resource for the young, the old, the poor and needy from the lonely pensioner seeking some relief to the parents with children who want to open their children’s’ minds through reading.”

Research based on freedom of information requests by the local Labour Party shows that libraries that have sustained cuts in opening hours and book stock have seen large decreases in usage and loans.

Until 2011, loans and active membership remained stable. In 2011/12, there was a 14% cut in opening hours across the county’s library service, which led to a 19% drop in book loans over the following two years. In 2014-16, the number of books held by Essex libraries was cut by 11% and this led to a similar decline in library loans and membership.

Libraries that did not see cuts in hours and book stock saw no decline and, in some cases, witnessed growth in use in recent years. In Great Dunmow, which saw the opening of a new library building in the centre of town, the number of active users rose 48% to 4,319 between 2008/09 and 2017/18. Over the same period, opening hours increased from 29 hours per week to 50 hours per week and the book stock increased by 4%. Yet, despite its success, Dunmow’s library is seeing its hours cut as it is downgraded to a Tier 2 library.

At Saffron Walden library, hours were cut by 21% from 61 to 48 hours per week with the popular Sunday opening times ended and earlier closing times during the week. Loans fell by the same amount over the following two years.

Saffron Walden Labour Party believes that further cuts to Saffron Walden town library’s opening hours will lead to a downward spiral of cuts with potential closure in 2024, when Essex County Council says that most of the libraries not closed this year will be moved to shared accommodation. The Corn Exchange could be sold off by the council and turned into yet another chain restaurant.

Click here to complete Essex County Council’s library survey.

Chesterford Research Park: Brexit Risk Threatens Council Finances

Saffron Walden Labour Party has questioned the wisdom of Uttlesford district council’s finance chiefs in committing £47 million of debt towards an investment in the Chesterford Research Park (CRP), via the council-owned subsidiary Aspire (CRP). They are neither spreading risk nor considering the effects of Brexit on the biotech and pharma sectors.

Labour warns that if the CRP starts losing tenants due to economic problems in these sectors, it will put in jeopardy the council’s long-term finances as well as the plans for the North Uttlesford Garden Village, which forms a crucial part of the proposed local development plan.

The annual directors’ report filed at Companies House in early September stated that “once the country has got past March 2019, the likelihood of new tenants coming to the park, with some requiring new buildings, will significantly increase.”

Following a fact-finding meeting between Saffron Walden Labour Party representatives and UDC cabinet member for finance Cllr Simon Howell and UDC finance officer Adrian Webb, who also serves as executive director of Aspire, party spokesman Daniel Brett said: “Uttlesford is wrong to have all its investment risk linked to one asset in one sector and we are extremely worried that their future plans seem to be more of the same initially, rather than spreading risk.

“UDC is basing its investment policy on a blind faith that everything will be alright in the end. It is incredible that UDC have, in the Companies House filings, reached completely the opposite conclusion to the conclusions of a report published in May by parliament’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee on Brexit risks to the pharmaceutical industry. The committee concluded that the UK may become a less attractive place to launch new medicines, particularly with regulatory divergence, and found that ‘any small gains would be hugely outweighed by additional costs or the loss of access to existing successful markets.’

“There is a very real risk that businesses will quit the CRP, potentially leaving the council with a large hole in its finances and sending its plans for the North Uttlesford Garden Village into chaos. We were told that the average remaining length of tenancy is eight years, but we are concerned that some of the larger tenants approaching the end of their tenancies may plan to quit for Europe or other research clusters.

“There are also specific risks to CRP. It is likely to lose business to nearby Hinxton, where companies are likely to cluster around an expanded Wellcome Genome Campus. Unlike Hinxton, the park remains outside the proposed Oxford-Cambridge technology arc with Uttlesford excluded from potential infrastructural benefits.

“Astonishingly, the council is not only wedded to investing everything in CRP, it is considering buying Aviva’s 50 percent share and expanding the park in the future. This will involve more council debt committed to an increasingly risky investment. If Aspire starts to struggle with interest payments, the council will have to deplete its reserves and cut local services.

“Even if the risks were totally mitigated, Uttlesford has placed all its eggs in one basket and opted for a low return asset. The council could have achieved higher returns in other sectors. It continues to ignore the tremendous commercial opportunities offered by Stansted Airport.”

UDC decided three years ago to set up a subsidiary, Aspire (CRP), and loan it money to acquire a 50 percent stake in the CRP. The funds were raised by council borrowing from the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) and other lenders at a low interest. Aspire would then repay the interest on the loan to UDC at a rate of 4% over the 40-year period of the loan, plus any dividends. The differential between the interest rate paid by the council and by Aspire is being used to plug the £2.5 million funding gap caused by the end of central government core funding and cuts in the council’s New Homes Bonus.

Kemi Badenoch’s crime campaign has failed; it’s time to reverse Tory cuts

Kemi Badenoch’s ‘Report It’ campaign to encourage crime reporting to the police to secure more police resources has failed due to her own party’s austerity measures, says Saffron Walden Labour Party.

The local party is demanding a complete reversal of Tory cuts in police staffing numbers over the past seven years and an increase in police pay to tackle the crime wave that is hitting Uttlesford.

Saffron Walden Labour’s statistical survey, based on freedom of information requests and public sources, finds that since 2010 crime in Uttlesford has doubled. Crimes per 1,000 people have risen from 35% of the rate in Harlow district to 70% since 2010. Unless the tide is turned, within five years Uttlesford’s crime rate will be the same as Harlow. Between 2010 and 2017, Essex Police has cut one in six police officers – 567 officers – to 3,000.

The police inform us that across the whole of Uttlesford and Braintree there is a specific allocation of just nine officers: five to local policing teams and four to community policing teams. We have been told there would be an allocation of an additional nine staff for Braintree/Uttlesford, “managed in accordance with operational need.” Based on shift rotation, this means an average of six police officers allocated to an area the size of London and a population the size of Swansea.

Saffron Walden Labour also highlights the real terms cuts in police pay that are adding to demoralisation of the police, who are not allowed to take industrial action, and undermining police staff retention rates. After accounting for inflation, the starting wage for police in Essex fell by £2,306 per annum between 2010 and 2017 – that’s a 10.2% cut. At the same time, housing costs have soared and there are not enough houses for key workers to accommodate them.

Unless the police have a significant pay increase, Essex Police cannot hope to retain them and boost the skills the police need to fight crime.

Labour’s Saffron Walden town spokesperson Simon Trimnell said: “Ram raids are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the effects of Tory cuts on policing in our area. The police are already over-stretched and will now be under pressure to catch these criminals, who are taking advantage of an under-policed affluent area. This will divert resources from other crimes, such as house burglaries.

“No-one is saying crimes would not happen under another government, but Kemi Badenoch should admit that Uttlesford’s lower level of policing due to Tory cuts has coincided with a rise in crime. She should also admit her ‘Report It’ campaign launched last year for a larger slice of resources has failed because cuts have reduced the amount available.

“We want to return to the numbers of police we had before the Tories came to power in 2010. We need to give them a pay rise and decent pensions that reward long service to help keep them in the force, build skills and reduce crime.”