Cuts leaving police services unfunded - Sir Hugh Orde

Sir Hugh Orde says plans to reform the police could threaten their impartiality.

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Key policing services are being left "unfunded" by budget cuts, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers Sir Hugh Orde has said.

Sir Hugh said there would be a £50m shortfall - the equivalent of 1,000 police officers - by 2014-15 which would have to be met by local forces.

His message was delivered at Acpo's annual conference in Harrogate.

Home Secretary Theresa May also gave a speech, saying reforms were about strengthening Britain's policing model.

In his speech, Sir Hugh highlighted the example of the newly-launched Police National Database which allowed police to share intelligence.

He said the PND had seen its funding burden shift directly to forces at a total cost of £5.6m.

"This was unplanned expenditure of which no account had been taken in making 20% cuts to the Home Office grant," said Sir Hugh.

He went on to urge the Home Secretary, Theresa May, to give greater clarity to the "many loose ends" on policing.

'Political motives'

"Unless greater clarity emerges in the very near future I do fear we run the risk of compromising the safety of citizens and damaging a service which has been at the forefront of protecting the public for so many years," he said.

Home Secretary Theresa May: "Police reform should be a cause for optimism... not fear"

"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 western 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."

He said it was not surprising there had been a lack of clarity, given such a huge and radical programme of reform, and urged ministers to "review and take stock of how many loose ends there are".

Earlier, in an interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he said: "At one end you see police pay reform going through a negotiating strategy; you see the Policing Improvement Agency, a national structure which delivers all the IT, all the leadership training and many very specialist crime services, being dismantled and you see a national crime agency to emerge in the future but we are yet to even see draft legislation.

"So bring all that together and add a new accountability structure currently making its way through the House of Lords at report stage and what you see is a very confused policing landscape which needs to be cleared up before we move on."

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.

Drug testing

Mrs May defended the government's attempts at cutting costs in the police service, saying she meant business when it came to "busting bureaucracy".

"I'm sending this message out loud and clear to Home Office officials and to every organisation across the criminal justice system - stop wasting police time," she said.

"All of this work is aimed at freeing your officers to fight crime."

She also told the conference she had scrapped targets for all forces to drug test at least 95% of people arrested for an offence which "triggers" testing, such as street robbery, burglary or supplying drugs.

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

Shadow policing minister Vernon Coaker said when one of the UK's most senior officers warned about a risk to public safety, it was incumbent on the government to listen.

"I think if Sir Hugh Orde is telling them that there's a real danger with all of the reforms that they're bringing in all at once then they should listen to him," he said.

"So far they've proved unwilling to do so and our appeal to them today is to listen to what Sir Hugh and indeed many others in the police service have said to them."

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