David Cameron and Theresa May have insisted their cuts to police budgets can be achieved without a reduction in frontline police numbers.
But Tim Brain, the former Gloucestershire police chief and now honorary senior research fellow at Cardiff University’s Police Science Institute, has challenged that claim head on.
In a study released today, Brain calls for the government to “pause and think again” about its planned 20 per cent cut to police budgets over the next four years, saying that it is bound to affect frontline policing.
Brain and his researchers have crunched the numbers and found that since budgets for security and private finance schemes are relatively well protected, it is likely to be local policing that suffers most. He said:
Ministers expect the brunt of such losses to fall in the so-called ‘back office’ but with as many as 16,000 police officer posts going, there is little prospect of the front line being unaffected. Police services and officers’ morale are both likely to suffer.
He also questioned ministers’ claims that the money could be saved by the police becoming more efficient:
For example, returning responsibility for charging for minor offences will not necessarily reduce the scrutiny required before a decision to proceed is made.
Cuts to frontline police numbers is one of the most difficult subjects for the coalition, as it highlights the clash between their desire to cut budgets and traditional Tory instincts on law and order. Despite Cameron’s claim today that “our police reforms are not about saving money”, most people will see this cut as primarily a budgetary measure.
Reports like this will be very unwelcome indeed.