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 743.

    work 30 hours a week, shifts, and I pay £350 a month of my wages into my pension. I don't claim benefits and I work extremely hard for my money. I'm constantly off work late and work unsociable hours and weekends.
    I work in a bar. I work 40 hours a week for £7 per hour and no pension. Not everyone has a cushy civil service job with early retirement. Stop complaining.

  • rate this

    Comment number 742.

    There is no more important task for Government than the defence and security of the realm against threats from both outside and inside its borders. If this fails, all else becomes insignificant. The cuts in both the Armed Services and the HDPFs are now assuming dangerous proportions that cannot be ignored, even if expenditure in other areas has to be reduced.

  • rate this

    Comment number 741.


    I'm pretty sure the 1000 will soon be tracking me down and knocking on my door because they feel insulted.

    I'd rather them track down some rapist or burlger, but hey each to their own.

  • rate this

    Comment number 740.

    I have friends in both the police force and military, neither of these two are careers, they take advantage of cheap unskilled labour, train to a point of expense and then dispose of the talent as the cost demand increases. Even one week before their term matures for a pension. There are no careers anyone more, just opportunist boss's looking for a quick buck.

  • rate this

    Comment number 739.

    A lot of comments here are illogical: 35 - "If they stopped victimising the public for statute violations, they might have more money left to spend on fighting actual crimes that have victims." The Police are there to police the law as it stands, no? You have a problem with the law as it stands? Go to Parliament; that's your forum. Don't criticise the Police for doing their underrated job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 738.

    725. Alison
    We all work hard for our wages Alison, and I know that there are some fantastic Police officers that go above and beyond, you may in fact be one of them. But time and time again we see corrupt and boorish Police officers that think they are above the law. Lets return to the friendly bobby on the beat upholding the law not enforce it. get the people back on your side!

  • rate this

    Comment number 737.

    Everyone wants good police protection, good health care etc but want them all to work for a pittance and then ruin their pension as well.
    Would be better for them to quit and work at McDonalds. Then if you needed the police, fire, ambulance, hospital etc, you'd be in big trouble. However if you wanted a Big Mac you'd be in with a chance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 736.

    Maybe if the police weren't tied up investigating those naughty journalists who listened into politician's and celebrity's voice mails they may have some time to help the general public.

  • Comment number 735.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 734.

    Perhaps the police could expect some solidarity from other industrial groups , miners perhaps , if there were any left and they didn't beat them all up on the picket lines years ago doing thatcher's dirty work.same goes for every other striking group so I wouldn't expect too much sympathy from other workers hard done to over the years.Surely though law and order is more important than savings?.

  • Comment number 733.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 732.

    Typical, Cornwall - one of the poorest counties with a very high drugs culture and ageing population is one of the most vulnerable to criminal activity. Police are all-but invisible unless you are a motorist. Threatened with violence or burglary - the police are never where you need them until it is too late. It is not their fault, it is the usual criminals in Westminster to blame.

  • rate this

    Comment number 731.

    In the Met deploy police more effectively and then we get better service. Doesn't need van loads to turn up to minor incidents and them for ALL of them to stay on scene while other incidents don't get attended to. Get rid of those with lousy communication skills and employ people from wider community who want to do the work. Cut the slack and improve the image and hey presto you get public support

  • rate this

    Comment number 730.

    Cameron is a disciple of that well known crime writer, Enid Blyton.
    Mention a crime fighting force to "Big Society" Dave and he immediately thinks of Julian, Dick, George, Anne, and Timmy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 729.

    So many negative comments suggest that the police are either Lazy, thick or just greedy. officers are only looking for one thing, a fair deal for all that they provide. Some individuals have less than complimentary stories about officers and we are well aware that if we dont like the job we can leave, but many people join the police in an attempt to make a differnce, and do so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 728.

    722.the real prophet
    Really? why don't we have one super policeman rather than a police force? Maybe we actually need some.
    Your comment is such an insult to 1000s of policemen out there. Maybe you think you can do better? I doubt it though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 727.

    If it wasn't for Hillsborough, Phone hacking, miners strike, kettleing, removal of identification numbers, Sam Hallam, Cleveland Police Authority, West Midlands serious crime squad, Charles de menezes, Blair Peach, Rebecca Brookes' horse, Stoke Newington Police Station in the 90's and retirement in early 50's, I might have a bit more sympathy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 726.

    714 Harry Lime

    Idiots I didn't vote for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 725.

    Everyone else has to make cuts,why not the Police? Well if I have to visit you as a victim of crime,please don't be critical of the amount of time it takes for me to get to you.I've probably been dealing (single handed), with a 6ft, bare chested, drunken male who has assaulted his wife,or maybe someone who is threatening to jump from a bridge. Not bad for a 5'4" female eh? I work hard for my wage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 724.

    When your Police force is so under-funded that gangs of knife totting 11-year-olds rage the streets freely, burning cars, stabbing bystanders and robbing you of everything from head to toe, I hope you realise how completely stupid any cuts to the Emergency Services really is.


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