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Policing: ‘Stark Choices Ahead’

Informed debate on the remit of forces must be held with further cuts likely, say analysts

Chief constables and police and crime commissioners will find themselves facing increasingly stark choices in years to come with no let up in the austerity programme.

According to politicians and senior law enforcement analysts, there is little prospect of any upturn in budgets in the foreseeable future – and officers will have to plan for working in an environment of ever-dwindling resources.

Lord Toby Harris, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Policing Group, said that forces would ultimately have to conduct a top-down review of the service they provided.

While it was not yet known what the next Comprehensive Spending Review would hold, he predicted there would be no upturn in the money available for law enforcement.

Lord Harris told PoliceOracle.com following a conference at RUSI in London: “There is no prospect of being able to manage cuts in the belief things will get better.

“We are in a position where budgets have been cut and are not likely to increase.”

The Labour peer predicted that short-term measures to address the current central government grant reductions of up to 20 per cent would not be sufficient in the long-term. “Forces are going to have to review what they do,” he added.

Lord Harris said the financial situation would also mean the first police and crime commissioners would face immediate challenges when they took office in mid-November.

He believed that there needed to be a more informed debate about the pros and cons of collaboration and the involvement of the private sector in policing.

Jon Collins, Deputy Director of the Police Foundation, agreed that there needed to be an informed discussion “based on evidence” about the role of the private sector – and clarity about potential benefits and costs was needed.

Mr Collins pointed out: We need to engage the public in a meaningful way and police and crime commissioners need to carry out this engagement.”

However, he acknowledged the timing of the G4S Olympics fiasco – when the security firm was unable to deliver the required numbers of personnel – had proved unfortunate. Some PCCs were now campaigning on anti-outsourcing agendas.

Mr Collins also shared the view of Lord Harris that there would not be any more money for policing in the foreseeable future as austerity prevailed.

He said: “There seems to be an expectation that the next Comprehensive Spending Review will see further cuts – this will necessitate a discussion on what the Police Service does as there is only so much you can slice off the top.”

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