29 Jun 2010
The government said on Tuesday it was cutting police red tape by scrapping two targets introduced by the ousted Labour administration ahead of budget cuts expected to see a reduction in officers.
Police minister Nick Herbert said sweeping away bureaucracy would allow officers to “do more with less” but accepted that “substantial” funding cuts were on the way to help tackle Britain’s record budget deficit.
The Home Office, responsible for the 43 police forces in England and Wales, faces losing around a quarter of its budget by 2015 as part of austerity plans unveiled by Chancellor George Osborne in his emergency budget last week.
“It’s absolutely clear that it’s going to be very tough, that the budgets are going to fall, and that police forces are going to have to share the burden of reducing the deficit,” Herbert told BBC radio.
He said an immediate priority was to increase efficiency, noting that local forces still ran separate procurement programmes and ran their own IT systems.
A review of pay and conditions for the 144,000 officers in England and Wales, and scrapping two of the Labour government’s targets would also help save money, he said.
One of the targets to go is the National Policing Pledge, introduced in 2008, which includes commitments to answer emergency 999 calls within 10 seconds and for neighbourhood police teams to spend 80 percent of their time visibly in their area.
The other is a target announced in March 2009 to improve public confidence in policing.
Herbert said there was evidence that officers had been tied up dealing with the “huge bureaucracy which the last government created in their target culture”.
“It is a paradox that we have seen the recruitment of record numbers of police officers in the last few years, and yet the public still say to us they don’t see them on the streets,” he said.
“That is why sweeping away that bureaucracy … is a very important part of the agenda of delivering more for less.”
Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, told BBC radio that some low-priority services would have to be reduced and accepted that police numbers would fall.
“We’ll have to look at how we can do things more efficiently … The rub comes when we look at the numbers, with 83 percent of the police budget being people, sadly we will lose people, in my prediction, over the next few years,” he said.