UK Politics

Police Federation: Officers hit from all sides by cuts

Police officers at the Royal Wedding
Image caption The Police Federation represents rank and file officers in England and Wales

Police officers feel they are being "hit from all sides" by spending cuts, the Police Federation has said.

Its chairman, Paul McKeever, said proposed changes could push their terms and conditions "back decades".

And he said a survey of officers showed most believed cutting police numbers would have an impact on crime levels.

Home Secretary Theresa May, who will address the body on Wednesday, told the BBC ministers were helping cut police bureaucracy and backroom spending.

The Police Federation, which represents all police constables, sergeants and inspectors and starts its conference next week, has published its own survey of 42,000 police officers in England and Wales ahead of Mrs May's speech.

It showed 98% of respondents believed morale was falling amid proposed changes to pay and conditions and job cuts.

'Don't destroy it'

The federation said 85% of respondents felt cutting police numbers would have an impact on crime levels.

Mr McKeever said: "Let's improve policing, not destroy it. The government must listen to these views from the front line and give the public and the police the opportunity to shape a police service that is appropriate for the future and able to deliver what is expected of it."

He said the Police Federation accepted that policing must "play its part" in public sector cuts - but said the government should "have the courage of their convictions and establish a royal commission on policing".

The coalition's Spending Review cut central government funding to police in England and Wales by 20% over five years.

Some forces will be less affected than others because of the proportion of their budget raised through council tax.

The chief inspector of constabulary (HMIC) warned earlier this year that some forces face a "big challenge" to make cuts without losing frontline officers.

The Association of Chief Police Officers has estimated that 28,000 police jobs will go over the next four years - 12,000 front-line officers and 16,000 civilian staff.

And a review of police pay and conditions has recommended a range of allowances and special payments be scrapped to save £485m over three years.

On Sunday Mrs May told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show that the findings of the Tom Winsor review were going through the police negotiating process.

But she said when pay made up 80% of police expenditure, and cuts were being made to tackle the deficit, it was "right to look at pay, terms and conditions".

Asked repeatedly whether she accepted Acpo's estimate that 12,000 officers' jobs would go, she said it was up to chief constables to decide how to structure their staff.

But she said the government was helping forces cut costs by reducing bureaucracy to save "man hours" and by helping them with back room costs like IT procurement.

"People talk a lot about police numbers, as if police numbers are the holy grail. But, actually what matters is what those police are doing. It's about how those police are deployed," she told the BBC.

"We want police officers to be crime fighters, not filling in forms."

'In denial'

But her Labour shadow, Yvette Cooper, said she was "in denial" about job cuts.

"It is her own 20% front-loaded cuts to the police that are responsible for 12,500 police officers and thousands more police staff being lost across the country.

"It is her responsibility that thousands of experienced officers are being forced to retire when they want to stay protecting the public and it is her responsibility that these forced retirements cost the taxpayer more not less."

A Home Office spokesman said the government's priority was dealing with the budget deficit and as the police spent £14bn a year of public money, they had to "make their fair share of the savings".

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