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 503.

    Front line officers may be reduced but they are being replaced with PCSO's.
    Why would anyone want to pay for something when you can get it for free?

  • rate this

    Comment number 502.

    The Police could probably do with a lot more cuts if they spent the money they had better. For instance, why not stop paying for them to sleep in cars hiding until last minute n motorways and other roads while a camera takes a picture and clocks the speed? Just one example. I can think of many others...

  • rate this

    Comment number 501.

    I see Notts police have had to cut their horse division to save money; at least they haven't killed them like they do with their dogs though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 500.

    480 bluemoaner1966
    the scumbags in our towns and cities? they dont go after the elite do they?

  • rate this

    Comment number 499.

    all those coppers moaning how hard they work, if you dont like it get another job?

  • rate this

    Comment number 498.

    "In an area near to me, the police are detested so much that it would be foolish of them to go around in groups less than two."

    Groups less than two? Never mind foolish... surely mathematically impossible?

  • rate this

    Comment number 497.

    To 453.Tax-Oppressed

    Public Sector employees whether it be the police, ambulance, fire service, teachers, NHS, armed forces, social services etc are providing a service to every member of the public (not just one sector) for the remuneration they receive & pay tax, NI & pension conts just like everyone else. To my mind they deserve every penny they get & I am happy to pay my tax towards it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 496.

    maybe if they stopped wasting money on brand new cars, technology to help catch statute breakers eg video cars that just drive around trying to hand out fixed penalty fines, the sooner they realise crime will happen no matter how much they spend the sooner they will save a lot of money, stop the anti drugs campaign u would instantly be able to double your man power, prohibition will never work!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 495.

    And then the Press make the Criminality aware of it all by publishing the news...good one

  • rate this

    Comment number 494.

    Less Police even more scope for fraud and hacking.
    Protecting the criminals at the top seems to have become top tory priority.

    Our export drive should start with Bob Diamond and Murdoch.
    May is incompetent and incapable of running an afternoon tea party - she can't be left to oversee the privatisation implementation recommended by her pretendy policeman appointee...the GS4 associate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 493.

    It does get boring hearing uninformed comments from the public who love to hate and criticise police. This sitting on roadsides getting at the innocent motorist - have you bothered to speak to the police? You will find they are actually targeting criminals using cameras as believe it or not criminals use the road network. Uninsured vehicles often lead to more offences.

  • rate this

    Comment number 492.

    Like any job, police are under pressure and the force consists of mistakes and undesirables etc. How could it be any other way?

    Will Tory voters be happy when the police and fire are privatised? This is in the future and is currently being proposed - hence all the negative publicity. Same old tactic: use the media to turn public opinion against a service or group of people, then destroy it

  • rate this

    Comment number 491.

    To #478.

    I was once in a country where there were no police for a while (Bosnia). It was horrific. Trust me.

    If the police are imperfect (who isn't) try the alternative,

  • rate this

    Comment number 490.

    In response to 468. luvclk

    What you call waffle is actually fact, the public sector are paid from the public purse, fact. The Tax you pay is money being returned to the public purse, fact. I do not see how you can equate public sector Tax being returned to the public purse as being a benefit to the private sector.

  • rate this

    Comment number 489.

    Would it matter how many were with me, isn't that infact what this thread is about, maintaining safe police numbers on the street.
    Not for you though, this is just an excuse to exercise that chip on your shoulder.
    You bore me

  • rate this

    Comment number 488.

    @265 whilst I like & have total respect for you guys, I don't know many people who can afford to save £50 towards a pension that's how bad this country is, the cost of living in this country is rocketing and is way out of control.

    If your saving £350 a month for a pension that is an awful lot and must mean your on good money, I'm sure plenty of people would love to step into your job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 487.

    I served as a Police officer for 30 years. Enough nonsense! There are now insufficient fully trained officers. Too much reliance on 3rd tier PCSO's! People don't bother to report crime! Now privatisation - G4S serving shareholders for profit - not the community! New Police Commissioners - a waste of £! Government out of touch. Listen to our dedicated PC's & Sgts - not the political Chiefs!

  • rate this

    Comment number 486.

    Yeah, and because of my pay cuts I've not been able to pay my mortgage, council tax and various other bills like I used to either. Do you know what I had to do? Adapt and get on with it. I cut as much chaff as possible and took it on the chin. Sure I can't lead the life I used to but I can't complain, I'm happy to just be in a job right now. If I can, why can't you (Mr police force)?

  • rate this

    Comment number 485.

    462.Bob hewson
    I am NOT a police spokesperson or have any affiliated membership of the organisation.
    To answer your question is easy as an observer....
    It is amazing how quickly a small incident can blow up to be a big one.
    In an area near to me, the police are detested so much that it would be foolish of them to go around in groups less than two.

    Modern society debases itself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 484.

    In 5ys I have had 2 dealings with the police, the first was when a very agressive male officer tried to arrest me for loitering on my own door step because I had lost my keys, this was calmed by the female officer talking to him, and the second was when 2 male officers pushed their way into my house because someone had seen me play fighting with my grandson, So I am not impressed with them !


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