England

Spending Review: Forces in East face up to 40% budget cut

Thousands of police officer and staff posts could be lost in the East of England if predicted cuts of 25% to 40% go ahead, it is claimed.

Police forces are already gearing up to meet the challenge of cuts, set to be announced in the Spending Review.

Neighbouring forces such as Norfolk and Suffolk, and Beds and Herts, are co-operating with each other to save cash.

The government says talk of cut levels before the Review is "mere speculation".

Other forces are calling for savings to be made through greater use of national procurement.

Peter Conniff, chair of Bedfordshire Police Authority, says it cannot be value for money that "of the 43 police forces, no two have the same uniform".

He added: "The biggest failure is IT. We must have a national IT system. Many forces' computer systems can't talk to each other."

Other forces are preparing for the predicted cuts by putting a freeze on recruitment - including Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Northamptonshire.

Police officers currently cannot be made redundant, though they can be forced to retired after 30 years service.

Bedfordshire

Bedfordshire Police is planning for possible cuts of £4m a year for the next four years.

Mr Conniff said the force should be able to get through the first year without making cuts of posts, but redundancies were likely in the following years.

The force has been co-operating with Hertfordshire to bring down costs.

The force is also co-operating with Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, in buying equipment in bulk to help save money.

Despite possible cuts, Mr Conniff said the force was "determined to try and maintain frontline policy and safe neighbourhood policing, locally based in communities".

Cambridgeshire

Cambridgeshire Police are planning for the possibility that they could face having to make savings of £33m over the next four years.

This could see a cut of 470 police officer posts (out of 1395) and 550 police staff posts including police and community support officers (PCSOs).

Ruth Rogers, chair of Cambridgeshire Police Authority, said the force has been underfunded over the last seven years to the tune of £16.5m.

She said that to then face cuts of £33m would seriously stretch resources.

"We don't want people to be frightened, but the fact is it is going to be difficult," she added.

Essex

Essex Police Chief Constable Jim Barker-McCardle said that before the spending review announcement, he did not want to be drawn on the exact number of posts at risk.

But he said the number was likely to be in the hundreds as "80% of our budget is spent on people".

"I don't think people should panic or be alarmed. It is difficult to take a lot of money out of policing without there being some impact or consequence for the public," said Mr Barker-McCardle.

"We have to be really smart and design a new blue print for policing."

He added: "I wouldn't want people to think that it is possible to take tens of millions of pounds out of the budget and not have any effect on the people who work for us."

Norfolk

Norfolk Police is looking at a possible cut of £35m on its budget in the Spending Review.

Stephen Bett, chair of the Norfolk Police Authority, said this would result in the loss of 330 police officer posts, 230 police staff posts and 60 PCSO posts.

He said the cuts would have a particularly severe effect on Norfolk as the they were leading the country in the efficiency savings it had already made before the review started.

Mr Bett said if they had to make severe cuts "it is going to be a very different (police force) from what we have now".

Northamptonshire

In the last financial year Northamptonshire Police saved £4.6m.

The force is working on a projected 25% budget reduction over four years - which mean savings of between £25m and £30m.

Chief Constable Adrian Lee said: "The financial challenges are huge."

With the Spending Review in mind the force is restructuring the senior officer team by about 13 posts: Four Chief Superintendents will be cut to two; nine Superintendents will be reduced to seven and 21 Chief Inspectors will be cut to 13 and one less inspector.

Mr Lee said there will definitely be compulsory redundancies in police staff at some point over the next four years.

"There will be fewer police officers and it will impact," he said.

Suffolk

Suffolk Police are projecting a loss of 500 to 600 posts from the present workforce of 2,400 officers and staff to meet the £25m savings needed.

Colin Spence, who chairs Suffolk Police Authority, said the force was working with Norfolk Police to see what savings could be made.

"We have to reassess how we do things," he said.

He added: "We are working really hard in the most challenging times to do our best to protect the service provided in Suffolk."

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