Police could not cope with a repeat of last summer’s riots if the Government cuts their budgets still further, according to one of Britain’s most senior officers.
More police cuts would leave forces unable to deal with riots
Sir Norman Bettison, the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, warned that there is no more “fat to cut” from forces after Whitehall told them to reduce spending by 20 per cent over five years.
Sir Norman Bettison, the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police
He said that police are coping at the moment, but any more cuts after 2015 would put “in jeopardy” their ability to deal with renewed disorder on the streets.
His comments came a year to the day since the Metropolitan Police was forced to call for hundreds of reinforcements from across England and Wales to quell the spreading chaos.
The 43 forces in England and Wales must save £2.4billion by the end of the current Parliament in order to cope with cuts in central Government spending as well as rising pay and fuel costs. Police strength will fall by at least 15,000 sworn officers and 15,600 support staff to its lowest for more than a decade.
But there is growing concern that the faltering economy will mean the age of austerity lasts beyond the election, and that the next Comprehensive Spending Review will mean more cuts to police budgets.
Sir Norman became the latest senior figure to express this fear in an interview with the Yorkshire Post, saying: “There is bound to be a tipping point somewhere and the fact we haven’t reached it yet doesn’t mean there is more fat to cut.
“Public disorder is always an ever-present risk. The time that you need numbers, resources and boots on the ground is the time that public disorder threatens.
“I would hate to leave this country and this county in particular without the cover that it needs to meet those eventualities. At the moment, we have that cover available and we proved it last year, but further cuts put it in jeopardy.
“We will do whatever is asked of us and we will do it without complaint, but my warning and reminder to those making the decisions is think about the response you need at times of crisis rather than just a Monday morning average school day.”
The chief constable of South Yorkshire Police, David Crompton, agreed: “We are doing our best to minimise the impact on frontline services.
“That will become impossible if there are further cuts in the next CSR.”
The Police Federation, which represents the rank and file, has also said that officers were stretched to the limit during last summer’s riots and that further cuts to numbers would leave them struggling to deal with a repeat.
Sir Norman has ruled out outsourcing any frontline services to private companies as a way of balancing the books, although his force will share back-office functions with others.
He has previously suggesting cutting senior officers’ pay as a way of protecting the number of bobbies on the beat.
A spokesman for the Home Office insisted: “The Government is committed to ensuring the police have sufficient resources to protect communities from violent disorder.”
More cuts would leave police unable to stop riots, chief constable warns
See: Force ‘Not Fit For Purpose’ Says Fed