Minister admits police numbers will fall

By staff

Overall policing numbers in England and Wales are set to fall, policing minister Nick Herbert has finally admitted.

It came as he pledged to make police forces save money by making them procure equipment like cars and IT systems together.

Mr Herbert, writing for the Sunday Telegraph newspaper, said it was inefficient that 43 forces had their own procurement systems and pledged to “mandate” national procurement where savings can be made.

Officials hope as much as £1 billion from the annual police bill can be saved through these steps.

The Home Office is expected to suffer spending cuts of at least 25% in the impending comprehensive spending review, though, making cuts to total police numbers inevitable.

“Even with tighter budgets and fewer people, frontline policing can be protected if bureaucracy is attacked, resources are used more efficiently, and officers work more productively,” Mr Herbert wrote.

“New York’s police lost more than a tenth of their manpower in the last decade, yet crime fell by over a third. The police must be crime fighters, not form writers.”

He pointed out that police forces faced 2,600 pages of guidance in the last year alone and that, as a result, just 11% of a police force’s manpower was visibly available to the public.

Shadow chancellor Alan Johnson, the former shadow home secretary, told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show that Labour had been looking to protect the funding that goes to frontline policing so there would not be a reduction in policing numbers.

“This government have said there’ll be a 25% cut from the Home Office, no protection for policing at all,” he said.

“That’s an example of a service which the public rely on where there’s a big difference in approach between us and the government.”

North of the border Mr Herbert’s sentiments are already being rolled out. Strathclyde Chief Constable Steve House unveiled plans to roll out “old-style policing with a hard edge”.

The number of police officers on the beat will rise from 500 to 2,600, the Daily Record newspaper reported.