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.


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

    Comment number 803.

    776. Rob

    757. Billythefirst
    Ah more arrogant police officers. (Who do you think you are Jenson Button..?)
    How did you guess? I was working deep undercover as well...far too flamboyant, more of an Alesi.
    Mind you I wouldn't say no to a go on the chopper, especially if it's got one of those great big lights on it...better see if there's a training course.
    Arrogant, moi?

  • rate this

    Comment number 802.

    And yet the Tory candidate for Police Commissioner in this area continues to maintain that the cuts will not harm the police, that efficiency savings will work, that front line numbers will not fall, aren't the police wonderful for saving so much so far, hard decisions must be made, we're all in this together etc etc.
    Does she really believe it? God help us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 801.

    Budget cuts lead to a reduction in service? - No sh** sherlock! - did we really need a report to point this out?

  • rate this

    Comment number 800.

    Sue 294 I wouldn't tell you how to give an enema why do you feel you have the right and knowledge about doing police work.?

  • rate this

    Comment number 799.

    I can just see the crooks rubbing their hands with glee. This can only improve their chances of getting away with things.

  • rate this

    Comment number 798.

    Behave yourselves, then wouldn't need a Police Force.

  • rate this

    Comment number 797.

    746. sue
    Maybe if police officers.......... Met officers with very few qualifications start at £27k after basic training.
    Sue, Soon a PC's starting salary in the Met will go down to £19,000pa after basic training. How you are supposed to survive in London on £12,000 or less (after deductions) let alone support a family. And that wage is below the national average of £24,000!

  • rate this

    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

    Comment number 795.

    Quote "746. sue
    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. "/ end Quote

    If it is so easy Sue, go do the Job, you put yourself at the sharp end of a broken bottle day after day and tell us how easy it is!

  • rate this

    Comment number 794.

    Comments are based on personal experiences and valid observations. Dont want aggressive not very bright police officers with herd mentatlity. Want those who are committed and do their best even though the environment is tough. Speak as A&E nurse on a different sort of front line with constant interaction with police. And as victim of crime. And from family with serving officers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 793.

    Austerity is a fools game according to nobel-prize winning economist.

    Austerity is another word for, "Batter them so we can prepare for privatisation".

    And the amount of billionaires living in the UK as well as every other country continues to rise

  • rate this

    Comment number 792.

    It's pay back time guys, you've treated the public with contempt for years, got into bed with Murdoch.

    You're now billy no-mates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 791.

    767. Ppuj

    If the Police were not so greedy and retired so early there would be enough to have not cut Police numbers.
    If the numbers aren't cut how is Tom going to bolster the profits of GS4 - c'mon get real (and get some shares in The Prudential like those in the know)

    Anyway, I think the govt are taking a far more relaxed stance on what is criminal, unless you're poor or demonstrate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 790.

    Does anyone know when the sun police awards are?

    Can't wait for that truly independent back slapping event.

  • rate this

    Comment number 789.

    Cameron promised that front line staff would not be cut, in fact he said they would be increased with only back office being cut. He is a liar and has put the general public in danger. People need to stop voting tory, they don't care about us! Ruining our NHS, Military, defence and police force.

  • rate this

    Comment number 788.

    Has someone taken leave, at a time of records numbers in our country, and growing, police are becoming more and more invisible. When already the Service is widely overstretched more cuts for forces are on the way..nuts.

  • Comment number 787.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 786.

    Maybe if the police service didn't appear to be "above the law" then there wouldn't be the widespread resentment and animosity we see towards them in this country today. The disgraceful way in which the bully boys in blue have behaved in dealing with legitimate/lawful protests (not just recently, but also historically) and now they seem surprised at the contempt and mistrust people have for them..

  • rate this

    Comment number 785.

    What do they do now ??????????????

  • rate this

    Comment number 784.

    Sorry, if I was a police officer I might feel differently, but my experience of the police over the last 30 years is not positive. With one exception I have been let down every time. It makes it very difficult for me to sympathise. My job is hard too. I get bitten, spat at, punched, hospitalised and abused but hey, I chose it, and yes, my work is subject to cuts too. I do it because I care.


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