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 583.

    Something seems to be happening before our very eyes folks; an unelected gang has taken over our nation in a silent coup and now they are moving as fast as they can to wreck every aspect of British society. They are attacking everyone that we should respect and promoting the greedy and corrupt in their places. At what point does this concerted effort look like a plan to drag Britain to it's knees?

  • rate this

    Comment number 582.

    I have a lot of respect for the police, its a hard job. I have a lot of respect for other workers like sanitary engineers, plumbers, electricians and the lady who brings my milk. We all have a choice, to a degree, as to what job we take. If you don't like it get another one.

    The money has all been spent, the next generations too, call the police they have been robed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 581.

    *Bat signal*

  • rate this

    Comment number 580.

    Agree totally with 549, it has been going on for years.
    Every job has its difficulties (I would not fancy patrolling Helmand Province).
    I am a front line police officer and all forces I have visited have a lot of warranted officers in office jobs working cushy hours.
    If the front line is being stretched get these people out and working for a living. They can not complain about working conditions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 579.

    The police can't police us properly, the same goes for the NHS care for us, the forces defending us, the firemen covering us, welfare keeping us from destitution etc-If the richest were made to pay the same level of tax proportionatly as the modest majority are forced to, we'd be far better off. Stop the soundbite platitudes Cameron.

  • rate this

    Comment number 578.

    I understand the need for the cuts in the Police service, as everywhere in the public sector, but the govt are going about this in the wrong way. The cuts could be better made by amalgamating the 42 forces into 1, thus paying for 1 Commisioner, a deputy and then some Regional Commanders, followed by Superintendents. This way they wouldn't need to hit hard working Constables

  • rate this

    Comment number 577.

    so many police on here are so far up there own a**ses,
    dont worry you will see daylight when you get to your throat,
    untill then stop moaning how hard you have it

  • rate this

    Comment number 576.

    As an ex police officer from the old-time copper patrols and duties I believe that more presence on the streets of uniformed police officers would pay more than they get.

  • rate this

    Comment number 575.

    I'm not for the cuts.In Cornwall the law abiding have concerns about the police providing any service at all.Crime is targetted by rapid response teams miles away and those involved in so called low level crime are aware of this. I overheard one local wide boy suspected of receiving on seeing a police car say as he closed his lock up 'plods on the way out here - we can do what we like'

  • rate this

    Comment number 574.

    There are some professions where people simply can't do them beyond a certain age.Do you think a 63 year old police officer could chase a junkie shoplifter across Piccadilly?

  • rate this

    Comment number 573.

    "Cops are crown servants"
    Employees of the constabulary which are LTD companies.

    Pensions are 12.2%. So? If they pay >25% avg salary then they're a better deal that private sector.

    "little proactive time - certainly not enough to persecute motorists for trivial stuff"
    Really? Only two times I've been tugged were for a light being out, both having gone out the same day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 572.

    558 Farkyss

    In previous riots the Fire service wont deploy without Police Officers. and who can blame them? As for your insurance companies.... where do they get their money from??? Oh yes its from the other members of the community. Without sufficient Police Officers to stop the riot, it will continue for ever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 571.

    I totally agree with your post and what you say about jimmy carr but what I don't agree with is the fact that only HE has beens singled out (named & shamed) when all the others doing the same thing get away with it. Why wasn't Gary Barlow hounded and criticised by DC the same way, just because he organised Jubilee party. It makes his behaviour more shameful mixing with royalty & tax dodging.

  • rate this

    Comment number 570.


    Good joke.

    But looking at serious side - who do you think would get arrested: youths or lady on the phone?

    Thats what has changed, and its why the tories feel safe to cut the police - far fewer people have sympathy for them than a few years ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 569.

    I have no sympathy for a bad effort!
    Ever played good cop bad cop?
    They still play good cop bad cop!
    Who said the Police could afford such a bad name?

  • rate this

    Comment number 568.

    Having been the victim of their dubious methods, hectoring, rudeness and dishonesty, to say nothing of their laziness ,I have no respect whatever for the police, insincere apologies from the locals and the IPCC notwithstanding. They are, by and large, uneducated, stupid, rude and classist, and in my view far too busy protecting the worng people and alientating their natural supporters..

  • rate this

    Comment number 567.

    Seriously, if it's so bad, just leave and do us all a favour. I'm sick of the moaning and sick of the hard done by stories. All this "spend a Saturday night with me." I'd love too, but wouldn't be allowed as I'm sure you'll come up with some excuse why I can't, due to 'elf & safety etc. Seriously, we have 2.5 million on the dole and probably twice that who "aren't recorded". They'd love your job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 566.

    If you look at the editor's picks, there's a 150-comment gap from 116 and then three on the trot: 265, 266 & 267.
    Could it be that the editor's pick are the nearest to hand when he/she refreshes his/her choice - or is it a statistical coincidence?

  • rate this

    Comment number 565.

    #555 I'll do a shift with you. Drop me a line.

  • rate this

    Comment number 564.

    We need more Police not less, simples.


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