Staff cuts hit frontline policing as Labour issues crime rise alert

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Nine out of 10 police officers lost in the last year were from the frontline, figures have showed.

The revelation comes as police numbers in England and Wales fell to their lowest level in more than a decade amid predictions the Government’s 20 per cent budget cuts will see the loss of 16,000 police officers by 2015.

Shadow Home Secretary and Pontefract MP Yvette Cooper called for Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May to “set out a plan to cut crime instead of just cutting police officers”.

Some 4,100 of the 4,600 officers lost between March 2010 and 2011 were from the frontline, an analysis of figures published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) showed.

The number of officers on the frontline in 2010/11 stood at 114,994, down from 119,155 in 2009/10, while the number of officers in support functions fell from 24,602 in 2009/10 to 24,116 last year,

The data showed the proportion of officers on the frontline in each of the years was about 83 per cent.

At Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, David Cameron said “the proportion of officers on the frontline is up”, but this was disputed by Labour.

Ms Cooper said: “The Prime Minister’s claim that the proportion of frontline officers has gone up was both wrong and out of touch. For a start, communities want to know about police numbers not just the proportion on the frontline.

“Over 4,000 officers have gone from frontline jobs in the first year of the Tory-led Government alone.”

Labour has previously warned that Government cuts risk leaving communities at risk from disorder and will undermine years of progress, backing vocal criticism from former South Yorkshire Police chief constable Merydydd Hughes who warned of a rise in crime from a combined impact of cuts to force’s budgets and general cuts to public services.

But Policing Minister Nick Herbert defended the Government’s package of pay reforms and efficiencies in the Commons, insisting numbers were not the only factor in improving frontline policing.

“Labour cannot claim overall crime is rising or that falling police numbers are causing crime to rise,” he said.