Public safety risk from police cuts

Karin Smyth MPDays after Home Office Ministers were forced to backtrack on planned changes to the way police force funding is calculated, Bristol South MP Karin Smyth is urging the Chancellor to follow suit and abandon proposed cuts to local policing that could see the removal of 280 police officers and 60 support officers from the local Avon and Somerset force.

In preparation for the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), George Osborne has asked the Home Office to model the consequences of cuts of 25% and 40% to local police forces, including Avon and Somerset.

Avon and Somerset Police say even a 25 per cent cut would reduce the number of people in policing to keep communities safe, by 280 officers, 400 staff and 60 police community support officers by 2020.

The Labour MP has now written to Mr Osborne, in advance of the 25 November CSR, asking him for an urgent rethink.

“The shocking mess that emerged in recent days, with police forces finding they needed to employ consultants to help them understand government figures that were wrong all along, highlights the fact that a complete and urgent rethink is needed on police funding,” she said.

“The fact that Conservative Ministers can’t grasp basic maths spells out how foolish it would be for anyone to trust them on proposals to cut policing levels. Every community in Bristol would be affected by Mr Osborne’s proposals.

“Residents of Bristol South value the work their local police do to keep their communities safe. The scale of the Comprehensive Spending Review cuts that are being threatened by the government represent a dangerous gamble with public safety.

“Sensible savings are possible. Our local force has already saved £58.8 million since 2010’s Comprehensive Spending Review, but further projected cuts of the scale being suggested will horrify my constituents.”

Police funding hit headlines last week when the government was forced to postpone its planned changes to funding formulae for one year, after it emerged the Policing Minister had been basing calculations on incorrect figures.

The CSR process is separate and it is still expected that police budgets will face huge cuts when the Chancellor addresses the Commons on 25 November.