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Police 'running out of time to make savings cuts'
6:00am Thursday 12th September 2013 in News
West Yorkshire Police has been warned it has little time to make spending cuts without hurting the performance of the Force with fears frontline policing will be affected.
A report by the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary raises concerns over the time scale for proposed reforms following a Government spending review.
West Yorkshire Police still has to find more than £9 million, out of a total of £112 million, savings by next March.
The HMIC report expresses concern about the Force’s ability to make further spending reductions, in the light of its “failure to grasp the opportunity to transform its services so far.”
It notes that the Force planned to reduce the number of officers by 17 per cent in the four-year period to March 2015 – compared to an 11 per cent reduction nationally.
But it also noted that West Yorkshire Police’s workforce dedicated to front line roles had increased from 77 per cent to 79 per cent.
A meeting of the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel tomorrow will discuss the practical steps being taken by the Police and Crime Commissioner in response to the report.
Panel member, Councillor Imran Hussain, deputy leader of Bradford Council, said yesterday: “This unprecedented level of cuts has to be absorbed and clearly that will have an impact.
“Whether we like it or not, it is going to have an effect on front line services including front line policing. But that should be protected as much as possible.”
Jon Christopher, chairman of West Yorkshire Police Federation, representing rank and file officers, said: “Front line delivery is being affected. Police driving round in cars, the backbone of the service, seems to be on the wain – and that will continue.
“The bulk of the public still support the police and see them as a point of contact. They want to see officers on the street, as it used to be.”
But he warned that as the number of support staff dropped, police officers would be taken off the streets to do the support work.
“We had the best police service in the world, but we are losing that.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson, responding to the report, said it “recognises our commitment to frontline policing in our communities, with the proportion of police officers in frontline crime fighting planned to rise from 92 per cent to 94 per cent by March 2015.
“I have also made the commitment to maintain the level of Police and Community Support Officers across West Yorkshire over the next three years.
“The HMIC report highlights that West Yorkshire Police has not grasped the same opportunities as other forces to transform and deliver savings. I have appointed a new Chief Constable to take a different approach.”
Chief Constable Mark Gilmore said he had put in place a fundamental programme of change. Progress was being made with technology, allowing officers to spend more time on the streets, he said.