POLICE leaders have warned that a police staffing crisis looms despite Government recruitment efforts – as there is still no long-term funding plan to get officer numbers back to pre-austerity levels.
This week the Home Secretary is expected to announce that 20,000 officers have joined UK policing as a result of the high-profile national uplift programme.
But Northumbria’s Police Commissioner Kim McGuinness says this is no time for celebration as the targets were never enough in the first place and hopes any announcement will include plans for the continued growth needed to fight crime.
Since 2010, Northumbria Police has taken the biggest financial hit of all the forces in England and Wales – losing more than 1,100 officers and £148m in budget cuts – a result of what the PCC calls ‘grossly unfair and regionally biased’ budget cuts.
The Government-funded recruitment campaign was set up to replace officer numbers nationally, but Northumbria Police was only allocated the funds for a maximum of 615 additional recruits. This is 520 short meaning that locally uplift targets set by Government have barely replaced half of those lost.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, said: “Even if the uplift pledge has been met – this is hardly a time for celebration. The numbers suggest police forces are 30,000 officers short of what is needed to keep the British public safe.
“We all know police numbers are nowhere near what they once were. Our communities know – they can tell. In Northumbria, we have exceeded uplift targets and that’s been our own making, our own financial planning, our own difficult decisions – we’ve had to go above and beyond as Government targets were nowhere near enough.
“Our population is growing; poverty is growing yet police numbers are plummeting. Nationally, it’s claimed forces need 50,000 to join to make any meaningful difference so we just have to sit tight until we know more. If there’s no continuation, no real plan, people will be put at risk and communities will suffer. Our region will suffer.
“We’ve been plagued by cuts in the North East and need a commitment to a consistent recruitment cycle. We need Government to give us back our cops.”
The Police Federation that represents rank-and-file officers has said forces need 50,000 to join to make any meaningful difference.
Steve Hartshorn, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “No doubt it sounds impressive but when juxtaposed against the massive funding cut levied since 2010, which resulted in over 20,000 fewer officers, the annual loss of around 7,000 officers and population growth of more than 3.5 million over the last decade, does it really offer hope of being able to provide a better service?”