Police budget cuts 'risk to three forces', HMIC warns

 
Police officers HMIC warned further job cuts could be needed because of a £302m shortfall

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Three police forces may not be able to provide a "sufficiently efficient or effective service" in the future, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary has said.

Its report on the impact of 20% funding cuts to police in England and Wales by 2015 said the Met Police, Devon and Cornwall and Lincolnshire were at risk.

There would be 5,800 fewer front-line officers across the 43 forces, it said.

Ministers said the "vast majority" were "rising to the challenge of reducing budgets while protecting services".

Met 'of particular concern'

Among the HMIC predictions:

  • The number of civilian staff doing front-line duties would fall by 2,300 by 2015 compared with five years earlier, in addition to the reductions in front-line officers.
  • The number of non-front-line officers would fall by 7,600, with the total police workforce expected to shrink by 32,400
  • Further job cuts could be needed because of a £302m shortfall in police spending plans.

Neither the Met nor Cheshire could provide detailed figures of how the cuts would affect their front lines.

Analysis

The HMIC's comments about the Met, Devon and Cornwall and Lincolnshire serve as a warning that the police service to the public will be damaged unless each force puts effective plans in place for the further cuts they must make.

The Met's position is the most serious. The government cutbacks were initially cushioned by Boris Johnson's determination to maintain police numbers in election year and money from the Olympics.

Once the Games are over cuts already planned will bite and the force will have to identify a further £233m of savings.

Add to this low levels of public satisfaction in the force; relatively high crime rates; poor performance on anti-social behaviour and a new leadership team and it's clear why the watchdog is so concerned.

One source said the Met was near the "cliff edge". Although it has denied that 8,000 jobs will go, as has been rumoured, it's hard to see how costs can be reduced without substantially shrinking the workforce.

Policing Minister Nick Herbert insisted the proportion of officers on the front line was increasing.

"The number of neighbourhood officers has gone up, crime is down, victim satisfaction is improving and the response to emergency calls is being maintained," he said.

"While there are particular challenges in three forces, we know that the vast majority are rising to the challenge of reducing budgets while protecting service to the public."

HMIC said the Metropolitan Police did not have any plans in place to make savings of £233m and this was of "particular concern".

In a statement, the Met said that it had delivered budget savings of £201m in 2011/12 and planned to deliver £537m by 2015.

But it said it recognised more savings were needed and was "committed to making reductions by considering how we do things differently and prioritising our service to communities".

Sir Denis O'Connor, Chief Inspector of Constabulary said there was ''a risk of transferring tasks'' normally carried out by non-front line staff to front line officers

The report also said plans had been put forward to close 260 front counters in police stations, but that forces planned to open 140 other locations where police would be based in buildings such as supermarkets.

In Devon and Cornwall, the report found there was a £2m budget shortfall, and raised concerns about crime levels. Between December 2010 and December 2011 crime rose by 3%.

HMIC said that because the force had cut costs before 2010, it had found it more difficult than some other forces to find the extra savings required by the spending review.

As a result, plans to balance their books relied to a significant extent on making savings quickly by cutting police officer and staff numbers.

Lincolnshire Police needed to save £21 million between March 2011 and March 2015, but by spring 2012 had only planned how to save 85% of this, and so had more work to do, HMIC said.

In a statement, Lincolshire Police said "relentless efficiency drives and partnership with the private sector" had "seen the leanest force in the country become even leaner".

"However, there remains a budget gap (of over £3m a year) in the years ahead and very limited means remaining to close that gap," it said.

'Fearful for safety'

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said HMIC's report showed police had "been able to continue to reduce crime and increase public confidence in policing" over the first three years of the cuts.

Start Quote

By going too far and too fast, the government is putting police services at risk - putting communities at risk”

End Quote Yvette Cooper Shadow home secretary

But it said maintaining performance would become more difficult.

Police Federation chairman Paul McKeever told the BBC that the headlines from the report were "disturbing".

"When I travel around the country speaking to police officers at open meetings, they're already expressing their concerns about the fall in police numbers - the stretch they're actually experiencing and the fears they have for public safety," he said.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper told the BBC that the police cuts detailed in the HMIC report were "deeply irresponsible".

"Our view was that the police budget could sustain a reduction of about 12% over a course of a Parliament," she said. "Instead, by going too far and too fast, the government is putting police services at risk - putting communities at risk."

Official Home Office figures released in January showed that the number of police officers in England and Wales had fallen to its lowest level for a decade.

There were 135,838 police officers in September 2011 - 6,012 (4.2%) compared to 141,850 a year earlier.

 

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  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 796.

    30 hours a week... boo hoo.. I work 50 before overtime, for which I am not paid (on salary you see). I don't earn nearly as much as a police officer... I am sorry chaps and chaps's of the force you have had it good too long, now you have to pay the piper... I have Police officers in my family yes they work hard, but no harder than the rest of us.... Welcome to the real world!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 750.

    I am a serving officer with 22 yrs experience & currently doing 3 specialist roles blended into one, because of the cuts. Its so frustrating & stressful. You can't do either role to the best. My BCU has few civil support staff now, who is doing the work they were doing? Police Officers. The government rhetoric is a disgrace. The UK Police service is being destroyed & we will all live to regret it.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 746.

    Maybe if police officers did something other than complain the public would be more supportive. Met officers with very few qualifications start at £27k after basic training.

    Compare that with nurses,firefighters,paramedics and you see why joe public has a problem with the attitude.Corrupt officers not dealt with tarnishes all. Leave and make way for others if you don't want the job.

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 594.

    Most PCs are usually rostered for working 66% of weekends, with cancellations on many of the others so events like football can go ahead. I can't arrange anything on my day off because the Job reserves the right to call me in, for no extra money, with just 2 weeks notice, and I have no way of protecting that day off. The thought that we may have any sort of private or social life is a joke!

  • rate this
    +20

    Comment number 548.

    I've done 23 years as a front line PC, paid 13 per cent of my wages into a pension, worked shifts, been assaulted, abused, spat at, and I'm still getting paid less than a lorry driver.

    When I retire you won,t see me for dust and those who think we are over paid can have the community they want, no Police just anarchy.

 

Comments 5 of 16

 

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