BUDGET CUTS could force police officers to take on back room roles as forecasts suggest the number of officers could fall below 100,000 by the end of the decade.
The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) has warned that there will be “no option” but to shift uniformed officers into support posts if a new round of austerity means civilian staff numbers are scaled back.
It has submitted an analysis of the possible impact on the police service of possible cuts over the next five years, after the Home Office, which is responsible for the majority of police budgets, was told to prepare proposals that would achieve savings of 25 per cent and 40 per cent by 2019/20.
The department said no decisions have been taken on police funding beyond the current financial year.
The APCC said its current modelling of possible changes suggests that police officer numbers could fall below 100,000 by 2019/20. Figures show that in March there were 126,818 officers working in the 43 forces in England and Wales.
The analysis said: “Even if uniformed staff reductions do not exceed the levels of natural turnover, the forecasts imply that police officer numbers will fall below 100,000 by 2019/20.”
There are already signs of “unavoidable actions which may compromise some of the beneficial changes from the past”, according to the report.
It said: “There are no restrictions on the use of both voluntary and compulsory severance for non-uniformed staff, but the options available on uniformed staff are more restricted. If overall establishments need to be further reduced - and there is no realistic alternative - some forces are already warning that they will have no option but to transfer police officers back into support roles.”
Paddy Tipping, PCC for Nottinghamshire, said PCCs have made significant savings since they were elected in 2012.
He said: “With more savings needed there will need to be a fundamental rethink on how we are organised, the service we offer the public, and the roles and skills needed.”
The Home Office said future funding levels will be subject to the outcome of a spending review which will report in November.
Policing minister Mike Penning said: “There is no question that the police still have the resources to do their important work. What matters is how officers and staff are deployed, not how many of them there are in total.”
Alex Marshall, chief constable of the College of Policing, said it has looked at the demand on police services.
He said: “Evidence shows that while the number of recorded crimes may have fallen, the level of demand on police resources has not reduced in the same way.
“The College foresees a future where there will be fewer people working in policing with less supervision and we need to ensure officers and staff have access to the skills, knowledge and information they need to succeed in protecting the public and reducing crime.”