Police forces could have to cut spending by £480m this year, according to the Association of Police Authorities (APA), raising fears that front-line officer numbers will fall.
Forces are already reviewing their spending plans after the Treasury raised “efficiency savings targets” from 3% to 4% in the Budget.
The Metropolitan Police will aim to save £366m by 2012. Staff costs account for three-quarters of the Metropolitan force’s annual budget.
Bob Jones, APA chairman, told the Times: “Further savings will require police authorities to look at more radical options for reducing costs and these will invariably face a higher degree of risk.”
The Home Office insisted that officer funding and numbers were at record levels.
A Scotland Yard spokesman added: “There is no indication that overall police officer numbers will be reduced.”
News editor analysis:
Just last month the Police Federation, which represents all 140,000 rank-and-file officers, called on the government to recruit 2,000 more front-line police officers to deal with anticipated levels of crime during the recession (the federation claimed that crime would go up nearly a quarter over the next two years, as a result of the economic crisis).
But the latest round of spending cuts identified by the APA will surely put an end to this dream, as it is hard to see how such savings can be achieved without reducing officer numbers.
Forces are working hard to reduce red tape and overlap in work; for example by encouraging more police staff to help with investigation work, but it won’t be long before the service has no alternative but to reduce front-line positions.