UK

Police cuts risk 'dramatic' variations, senior officer claims

  • 7 September 2015
  • From the section UK
Police officers Image copyright PA

Fresh cuts to police budgets could lead to "dramatic and dangerous" variations in services, a senior officer says.

Forces will struggle to find savings required by new arrangements due soon, said Ch Supt Irene Curtis, president of the Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales.

Policing minister Mike Penning said reforms were working and crime rates had fallen over the last five years.

The Home Office said it had not taken any funding decisions beyond this year.

It has been told to prepare proposals to achieve savings of 25% to 40%.

Earlier this year, the BBC found every police force in England and Wales was preparing for major budget cuts over the next five years.

Ms Curtis said: "I do not believe that individually every force can find the savings that will be needed.

"Even working collectively, I do not believe that 43 forces together will be able to meet the savings targets without it potentially leading to dramatic, unfair and dangerous variations in the level of service provided from one force to the next, and the loss of public confidence that will inevitably result."

Radical rethink urged

Last week, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners published analysis of the possible impact of cuts, saying uniformed officers may have to take back-office roles and the total force in England and Wales could fall below 100,000 by the end of the decade.

Ms Curtis, whose organisation represents senior operational police leaders, said the cuts police face are "too great".

"If we cannot police effectively with the resources we have, that becomes a problem for society. I genuinely believe that the scale of the challenge ahead makes this a serious risk," she said.

She called for a "radical rethink" of how public services are funded and delivered.

"Almost everything that the police deal with today has an impact on, a crossover with, or a root in another public service; whether that is health, education, social services, housing or something else," she said.

"Government cannot look at policing budgets or services in a silo any more."

Mr Penning said police forces still had the resources "to do their important work".

"What matters is how officers and staff are deployed, not how many of them there are in total."

Government changes since 2010 had cut red tape, scrapped unnecessary targets, and given officers the discretion to use their professional judgement, he said.

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