UK Politics

Police criticise Nick Herbert's suggestions on cuts

Image caption Police forces have been warned of the tough financial times ahead

Senior police chief constables have criticised government suggestions that 20% budget cuts could be achieved mainly through efficiency savings.

The Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, Chris Sims, said if forces had to make cuts of more than 12% then radical change had to be expected.

Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Peter Fahy agreed that fundamental reform was needed.

They were speaking to the Commons inquiry into policing.

Suggested savings

Mr Sims, head of the UK's second largest force, said there was a "growing inconsistency" in political rhetoric about what the police should do to make savings.

He said it appeared as if there was no longer a need for "fundamental reform" when that was not the case.

At the seminar in Cannock Chase, Staffs, Policing Minister Nick Herbert suggested savings could be achieved by freezing officers' wages, increasing the police precept in council tax, and improving procurement deals.

But Mr Sims said: "I think there's a danger that we make this look [like] a comfortable set of changes and we don't prepare ourselves, our staff and most importantly the public for a degree of radicalism in the way the policing service is delivered.

"I am absolutely confident that we can do this, that we can maintain output and delivery, but we can't hide from the fact that this is going to change the way that policing is seen and delivered."

He said the police were ready to take any radical steps required and added: "What I observe of late is that we seem to be slipping in to a description where actually the cut isn't as is being said.

He added: "It would take a 7% increase in precept to replace 1% in grant. I don't foresee that that is going to happen in the climate that we're in."

He had earlier told the BBC's Politics Show that the public would not see any change in the current service offered, despite the fact the force was making at least 2,200 job cuts.

Peter Fahy, chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, admitted there could be a difference between what the public felt the police should be doing and what police professionals felt their forces should focus on.

Mike Cunningham, chief constable of Staffordshire Police, said "a root and branch" review, examining shift patterns, call handling, dispatch and investigation processes, was required and there had to be a "relationship of trust between police and local communities".

Mr Herbert told the committee, which was led by Labour MP Keith Vaz, that if the precept in council tax was raised, the forces could see their average savings cut down to 14% "in real terms"

He said: "The position is one that I think forces can deal with and takes us close to the 12% savings that... could be made by forces through efficiencies.

'Essential changes'

He said that Mr Sims's force was among those that earned less through the precept than it was given by the government.

Mr Herbert added: "The changes which the government is asking the police service to make are not optional, they are essential."

Shadow home secretary Ed Balls told the committee that he was not sure if the cuts would support a commitment to frontline policing.

He said if the precept was increased, he would be surprised about how well that would be received by local communities.

His comments echoed those he had earlier made on his blog when responding to Mr Sim's remarks about the job losses his force was facing.

Mr Balls said: "David Cameron and Theresa May's claims that police funding can be cut by 20% without hitting frontline policing is becoming increasingly laughable.

"Police forces across the country are being put in an impossible position by the scale and the speed of the cuts to their budgets. And front-loading the biggest cuts in the first two years means long-term efficiency savings to protect police numbers will be very difficult to achieve."

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