The Met Police has admitted that it may have to make front line police officer job cuts if all other options to save money are exhausted.
HR director Martin Tiplady told Personnel Today that the force would consider front line officer redundancies by 2012, but only as a last resort and after all other opportunities to save money had been implemented.
Yesterday the Association of Police Authorities (APA) said the force would need to save £366m in the next three years. Staff costs account for three-quarters of the Metropolitan Police’s annual budget.
Tiplady said: “It is possible the Met will make front line cuts. Do I think we would work our hardest to avoid it? Absolutely. We are looking at where we could do things differently and cheaper. We will have to make decisions [on jobs].
“We are not far off [on our budget] on year one, but year two and year three are more of a challenge. We’d only cut frontline jobs as a last possible resort and only once everything else had been exploited. We’d never rule anything out.”
Tiplady said options for saving significant sums of money included reviewing how the force procured the 7,000 police vehicles it needed and looking at a cheaper catering model.
The APA warned that all forces would need to cut £466m spending this year alone. Forces are already reviewing their spending plans after the Treasury raised “efficiency savings targets” from 3% to 4% in the Budget, raising fears that front line officer cuts were more than likely on the cards.
The National Policing Improvement Agency said it was advising forces on what areas could be cut back. However, Angela O’Connor, chief people officer, stressed cutting officer jobs was the last thing any force was considering.
“I am yet to meet anyone who thinks cutting front line jobs is a good idea. That seems to be the last thing that anyone wants. But we are in the reality of an economic downturn and we have to be serious about the delivery of services economically and how we can help deliver what [forces] are doing more economically.”
O’Connor listed several projects on the go to help reduce spend, including the joining up of information and communication technology, managing national procurement, working more coherently with partners and developing consistent HR standards to introduce better benchmarking.
Last year Ronnie Flanagan, chief inspector of constabulary, warned last year that police numbers were unsustainable and were likely to fall over the next three years as the UK could not afford to keep policing levels at their current rates.
The Home Office insisted that officer funding and numbers were at record levels. A Scotland Yard spokesman said: “There is no indication that overall police officer numbers will be reduced.”