Less police ‘doesn’t mean worse frontline’

By Alex Stevenson

Policing minister Nick Herbert has insisted falling police numbers will not necessarily lead to a worse frontline service.

But shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper told him he was "completely out of touch" as the pair clashed on the Today programme this morning.

Home Office figures released yesterday showed the number of police officers had fallen by over 6,000 in the last 12 months. There are 900 fewer community support officers and 9,000 fewer police staff.

Ms Cooper said government ministers were "deeply complacent about the sheer scale" of the cuts being imposed.

The Home Office has seen its budget slashed by 20% – significantly more than the 12% cuts judged by the police watchdog to be the maximum savings possible without affecting the frontline.

Yesterday Gloucester chief constable Tony Melville said his relatively small force was facing a "perfect storm" and had been brought to a "metaphorical cliff-edge" sooner than others.

"I think it's quite wrong to make the assumption that simply because the number of police officers is falling that means there will be a worse frontline service," Mr Herbert said.

"What other police forces are doing is moving those officers so as to protect the frontline.

"We expect the proportion of officers who are on the frontline will actually increase over this spending increase period as they drive out costs in the backroom functions."

Mr Herbert said additional savings of £350 million would be achieved through the pay freeze imposed on police officers.

Ms Cooper conceded that she supported the measure. But she highlighted CID officers made redundant in West Midlands, neighbourhood sergeants in London and frontline officers in North Yorkshire as examples of the cuts being made by police.