Police cuts are here to stay, says head of watchdog

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Sir Thomas Winsor has been head of the police watchdog since 2012 - the first civilian to occupy the post

Police cuts in England and Wales are "here to stay", the head of the police watchdog has said.

Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Thomas Winsor said forces had mainly "done well" with 20% cuts in four years and more savings were likely.

Sir Thomas said a "smaller service" would have to "work smarter".

In December, the chief of the Met Police warned public safety would be at risk unless radical measures were taken to deal with funding cuts.

But speaking on BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend, newly knighted Sir Thomas said: "Austerity is here to stay.

"The police have already made, and done it well in the main, cuts of 20% in the last four years and they are facing cuts of a further 5% next year.

"There will inevitably be a time where they can't take any more but let us remember that measured crime has fallen dramatically - but so have the demands made on the police."

'Working smaller'

Asked if there was room for further cuts, Sir Thomas said: "In some respects there are further efficiencies to be obtained, that is undoubtedly the case.

"They [police forces] need to work smarter because they will be working smaller."

Sir Thomas said forces had not done enough work to analyse new demands being made on them, particularly with regards to cyber crime.

He also said that while any crime reported to the police had to be taken seriously, there were some crimes that were "more serious than others".

"Nobody would argue that shoplifting is as serious as a violent assault and therefore the police need to look for the crimes that matter most to people, that do greatest harms to communities - serious and organised crime, drugs, violent offences, the grooming and sexual exploitation of children," he said.

Last month, Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said that unless police "act fast" and with "courage" to implement far-reaching reforms, the cuts would endanger public safety.

He suggested police forces in England and Wales should merge and share resources with other emergency services.

Sir Hugh Orde, the Association of Chief Police Officers' president, has also recently warned that police forces were struggling to deal with reductions in funding.

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