Police at odds with Cameron over size of cuts

A YORKSHIRE police force is on a collision course with the Government after savaging David Cameron’s claims it is facing only an eight per cent budget cut.

Senior sources at West Yorkshire Police have revealed they will have to save more than 20 per cent – putting the jobs of more than 700 officers and 1,100 police staff at risk.

Furthermore, police budgets are made up from council tax precepts and Government grants; West Yorkshire has one of the highest Government grant proportions in the country – 83 per cent compared to Surrey which is 50 per cent – and therefore claims cuts in Whitehall funding will hit it harder.

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The Yorkshire Post understands that the force is planning to slash its budget of £438.5m by more than £100m. However, the Prime Minister has denied such severe measures are necessary.

Mr Cameron said by his calculations the West Yorkshire Police budget would be reduced by 8.4 per cent when figures for both funding sources were taken into account.

He said the average cut across the country was six per cent, and pointed to North Yorkshire which he claimed would suffer a below average cut of 2.4 per cent.

“A six per cent cash cut is the national average – that’s when you take into account that police forces are funded in two ways, the direct grant from Government and through the precept,” he said.

“So, in the north of the county, North Yorkshire police cash reduction is less than six per cent over four years and in West Yorkshire the cash cut is a little bit greater than six per cent, so they are all variants around an average.

“It is perfectly possible to do that sort of cash reduction over four years while maintaining visible policing.”

But West Yorkshire Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, refuted the Prime Minister’s figures and said Mr Cameron was “panicking” in the wake of recent riots.

Federation chairman Andrew Tempest-Mitchell said: “It’s been apparent for many months that the police service is preparing for 20 per cent cuts. It is clearly incorrect and disingenuous for Mr Cameron to say it’s eight per cent in West Yorkshire. Prior to the riots they were openly saying 20 per cent cuts would be the norm – now they are panicking.”

Wakefield Labour MP Mary Creagh pointed out that the spending review published last year stated government spending on the police would fall by 20 per cent in real terms over four years.

She said: “David Cameron is cutting police too far, too fast. His eight per cent figure is the cash cut not the real terms cut. It pre-supposes massive rises in the local police precept, which simply will not happen.

“Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary is very clear. The 20 per cent cut in the central government grant will result in more than 1,500 police posts being axed in West Yorkshire alone.

“Crime fell by 43 per cent under Labour, but these cuts will put that progress at risk.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The reductions in the police budget for the spending review period are challenging but manageable. There is no question that the police will still have the resources to do their important work.”

West Yorkshire Police is required to have 17 police support units – 431 officers – available at 48 hours notice.

But it is understood that because more than 1,000 officers were moved to neighbourhood policing and because shift changes had been made to meet requirements for extra Friday and Saturday night cover, the force struggled to meet the obligation.

Comment: Page 10.