Police budgets nationwide are “likely to get a bit of a battering” when the next round of public spending cuts are announced in November, according to a senior official at a Yorkshire force.
Nigel Brook, assistant chief officer at West Yorkshire Police, has admitted he is “not too hopeful” about the outcome of the public spending review, which is expected to see cuts of between 25 and 40 per cent to police budgets.
Speaking at the Excellence in Policing annual conference this week, he said the Home Office had insufficient information to determine how much further it could reduce funding without degrading services “before reaching a tipping point and keeling over”.
Mr Brook, who is also Acting Lead for Finance and Resources for the National Police Chiefs Council, which represents senior officers, added: “They are accusing us of crying wolf, without knowing when the point will be reached themselves. I call that a little bit dangerous.
“The Home Office doesn’t tailor cuts to individual forces. That means some are more likely to go to the wall faster than others and it’s not as if there was a level playing field to start with.”
Police forces have been told by the Treasury to expect cuts of between 25 and 40 per cent when Chancellor George Osborne announces his spending plans on November 25.
It is feared that cuts of 40 per cent to forces which have already lost large proportions of their workforces will prove to be ‘catastrophic’.
Senior officers are reluctant to go into too much detail about what the results of local cuts might be for fear of alarming the public.
But with many police services already stretched and facing regular backlogs of demand, there are question marks over how ‘normal service’ will be maintained and the public’s safety assured in the face of further cuts.
Since 2010 West Yorkshire Police has had to make £140 million in savings and has seen the number of police officers it employs drop by more than 1,000, from 5,800 to fewer than 4,800 as of June this year.
Bosses expect to lose a further 350 officers by April 2017, and by 2019/20 will have had to make cuts of between 25 and 40 per cent from its budget.
A leaked South Yorkshire Police report last month revealed 500 officers, 1,000 support staff and 150 Police Community Support Officer positions could go at the force by 2020 as a further £59m of cuts are demanded.
The new savings come on top of £53m cuts since 2010 which have already seen 1,000 jobs lost.
Mr Brook told this week’s conference that if the Home Office announced “real term” cuts of 40 per cent on November 25 it would mean 68,000 police posts going.
Even cuts of 25 per cent will take officer numbers “awfully close” to the psychological 100,000 total, he said, adding: “If cuts are 40 per cent, it will make it go well below that.”
Based on similar cuts for police community support officers, the number remaining will be between 4,000 and 7,000. And it is possible the figures could go lower due to the “change in the mix” of staffing being considered across the service, he said.
He added: “I think it makes for a worrying scenario and we are not crying wolf.”
“The Treasury is a cold-hearted breed and the evidence for them has to be absolutely compelling,” he said. “I’m not convinced our evidence is that compelling.
“We have done all we can with the calculation, science and evidence. It’s now a political debate. We are likely to get a bit of a battering from the next spending review. I’m not too hopeful for the outcome.”
Mike Penning, Minister for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Victims said: “Police reform is working. Over the last five years, frontline services have been protected, public confidence in the police has gone up and crime has fallen by more than a quarter, according to the independent Crime Survey for England and Wales.
“In Yorkshire and the Humber region, police-recorded crime has fallen by 16 per cent in the same period.
“However, if we want policing in this country to be the best it can be, then we must reform further, and that includes putting police funding on a long-term, sustainable footing. That’s why we are currently developing a new fair and transparent model for allocating funding to forces in England and Wales.
“There is no question that the police still have the resources to do their important work, and we are committed to ensuring that policing has the appropriate capacity and capability to deal with growing pressures from cyber-enabled crime and historical cases of child sexual abuse.
“No decisions have been taken on police funding beyond 2015/16.”