Wales police cuts: Drop in officer posts will 'affect public safety'

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary said each force had progressed well with savings targets

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Plans to cut the number of front line police officers could have a "serious and adverse impact" on public safety, a Welsh government minister has warned.

Carl Sargeant spoke after a report found Wales' forces plan to shed more than 600 officer posts by March 2015.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) said each force had progressed well with savings targets.

The UK government said the HMIC report made it clear "the front line of policing is being protected overall".

In its comprehensive spending review of October 2010, the UK government announced it would reduce central police funding by 20% in the four years between March 2011 and March 2015.

Start Quote

It is not possible to make cuts of this magnitude to the policing budget without affecting the number of frontline officers”

End Quote Carl Sargeant Local Government Minister

Now HMIC has examined how forces across England and Wales have met the challenge of making the necessary cuts in response.

Its report, Policing in Austerity: One Year On, was published on Monday.

Based on data provided by each force, it found that compared with March 2010 there would be 722 fewer police staff by March 2015, but 345 more community support officers over the same period.

The report also found that:

  • All four Welsh forces had made good progress in achieving its savings for the comprehensive spending review period
  • A total of £96m in target savings were planned across Wales in that period
  • Crime levels were some cause for concern in north Wales, where figures had risen despite a general reduction across England and Wales
  • Victim satisfaction was some cause for concern in the North Wales and Gwent Police areas, where 82% were satisfied with the overall service provided by each force

Commenting on the reduction of police officer posts, Local Government Minister Mr Sargeant said: "I am deeply concerned this will have a serious and adverse impact on public safety.

"I have been saying for some time that contrary to the view of the UK government, it is not possible to make cuts of this magnitude to the policing budget without affecting the number of frontline officers."

'Resources'

The Welsh government was taking the issue "very seriously" and was investing in 500 new Community Support officers, the minister added.

"While they are not a replacement for warranted police officers - they are there to complement and support existing police resources and are already making a real difference to communities across Wales," he said.

Start Quote

We acknowledge that we will have to do more with less, and more difficult decisions will have to be made”

End Quote Simon Prince Assistant Chief Constable, Gwent Police

With regard to crime levels and victim satisfaction in north Wales, Dru Sharpling, HM Inspector of Constabulary for the Western Region, said: "As the force progresses plans it must look for opportunities to increase the proportion of staff and officers in frontline crime-fighting roles, focusing on crime reduction and making communities feel safe."

North Wales Chief Constable Mark Polin said: "Throughout this period of unprecedented change I remained impressed with the way that colleagues adapted to new ways of working and continued to respond to our stated priorities.

"Whilst crime did increase, this was against the trend and the picture is now very much an improving one with the first quarter of this year showing a 4% reduction in victim based crime."

Ms Sharpling said the high proportion of police officers in frontline roles in the Gwent police area should contribute to higher levels of victim satisfaction there.

Simon Prince, Assistant Chief Constable of Gwent Police described the HMIC report as "encouraging".

'Reshape the services'

"It clearly notes our strong track record of reducing costs through careful management and business planning," said Mr Prince.

"There are obviously many difficult challenges ahead... We acknowledge that we will have to do more with less, and more difficult decisions will have to be made."

Nick Ingram, Deputy Chief Constable of Dyfed-Powys Police said the force was pleased that the HMIC report recognised its work.

He said: "Although there have been some challenges, we have been able to maintain and in some cases improve the level of service provided.

"There will always be difficult decisions that have to be made when organisations reshape the services they provide, but in every choice that we make we put our residents, and the people who need us at the heart of the process."

Policing and Criminal Justice Minister Nick Herbert said the report makes clear frontline policing is being protected overall.:

He added: "The proportion of officers on the front line is 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."

Policing in Austerity: One Year On

Source: HMIC report

FORCE AREA

SAVINGS TARGET BY 2015

PROGRESS BY SPRING 2012

POLICE OFFICER POSTS TO GO BY MARCH 2015

PERCENTAGE OF WORKFORCE IN FRONT LINE BY 2015

Dyfed-Powys

£12m

Plans in place to meet 100% of target

55 (5% fewer)

73%

Gwent

£25m

Plans in place to meet 95% of target

126 (9% fewer)

78%

North Wales

£16m

Plans in place to meet 100% of target

162 (10% fewer)

72%

South Wales

£43m

Plans in place to exceed target

292 (9% fewer)

74%

TOTAL

£96m

635

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