Speaking to a police officer is harder than it used to be.
There are fewer coppers on the beat – and police stations are closing.
It’s just one practical example of the impact massive spending cuts have had on our communities.
But you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Because it’s emerged that what Chancellor George Osborne has in store over the next five years goes far beyond the cuts we have seen so far.
Details emerged in a report by official watchdog the Office for Budget Responsibility, published as the Chancellor delivered his Autumn Statement on the nation’s finances.
It’s warning that the only way Mr Osborne can meet his targets for controlling the UK’s debts is through massive cuts in spending.
The report states: “The figures imply that roughly 40 per cent of the total implied cut in day-to-day public services spending between 2009-10 and 2019-20 will have taken place over this Parliament, with roughly 60 per cent to come in the next.”
And it gives details. Back in 2009-10 (the financial year beginning in April 2009) the Government spent £5,640 on services for every man, woman and child in the country. Today, that figure is down to £4,910. And by 2019-20, it will be down to £3,880.
These figures have been adjusted for inflation, so it makes sense to compare them to each other.
But it gets worse.
While Mr Osborne has not offered a firm promise about this, he’ll probably pledge that spending on the NHS and most spending on schools is protected from being cut.
That’s what he’s done so far.
Of course, protecting the NHS and schools is a good thing, but it means spending on everything else will be slashed to the bone.
Funding for public services outside the NHS, schools and overseas aid (a tiny part of the budget) will fall from £3,020 per person in 2009-10 to £2,280 today – and £1,290 in 2019-20, much less than half what it used to be.
This includes the police and local councils.
Police forces and councils are already suffering. West Midlands Police, for example, recently announced plans to close three quarters of its front counters. This means police stations may remain open – in the sense that police officers are working inside – but they’ll be closed to the public.
Labour plans smaller cuts because, unlike the Tories, Labour says it’s okay to borrow money to spend on infrastructure. But if Mr Osborne sticks to his plans, he’ll devastate public services.
There’s one ray of sunshine. The Office for Budget Responsibility says these cuts “would pose a significant challenge”.
That’s a polite way of saying they don’t believe Mr Osborne will succeed in cutting spending as much as he hopes.