Northants Police has been named as one of five forces which will struggle to cope with future budget cuts, a report has found.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary’s (HMIC) annual value of policing report, published today, examining the state of policing budgets in England and Wales, said the majority of forces had adapted well to Government spending cuts, which will take a 20 per cent hit to budgets in real terms by 2015.
However, the HMIC said it was “deeply disappointed” with “missed opportunities” to drive major efficiencies in some forces, while others would struggle to accommodate future cutbacks – identifying forces in West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire and Bedfordshire as facing a battle to provide “high-quality service” to the public.
The report, largely in praise of police forces and their staff for swallowing significant budget cuts, comes as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today reported a 9 per cent fall in recorded crime for the last year.
Zoe Billingham, HM inspector of constabulary, said the overall response to the financial challenge by police forces had been “good”.
But she added: “We have found a considerable variation in the approaches taken by forces - and in some cases this leaves us with concerns about how some forces will manage in the face of further cuts.
“We also have some concerns that neighbourhood policing risks being eroded as forces change how they deliver local policing.”
In response to the report, Chief Constable Adrian Lee of Northants Police said: “I am pleased that this report from HMIC recognises the substantial savings and efficiencies we have already achieved in Northamptonshire.
“The report says ‘There is no doubt that the force understands the scale of the challenges it faces.’
“This is very much the case and we are now finalising plans to achieve the further financial savings we need to make without any detriment to services to the public.
“I am confident that we will achieve this.
“The force has always delivered on the savings targets that had been set and will continue to do so.
“Likewise the HMIC report acknowledges the work we have done to improve the performance of the force and the difficulties we have faced in that.
“We are pleased that all crime has reduced by 13 per cent and violent crime reduced by 15 per cent since April 1.”
The report said most forces have plans in place to balance their books by the end of the spending review period, increasing the proportion of its workforce on the frontline.
Forces have also worked to make the 31,600 staff reductions (with about half of those being police staff) by March 2015.
However, it said broadening the remit of neighbourhood policing will have a “potentially detrimental effect” on the amount of prevention work it can carry out, and “impair” the level of service the public receives.
The report says West Yorkshire Police had left “large elements of its operation untouched”, while South Yorkshire had not “achieved savings seen elsewhere”.
Northamptonshire Police’s approaches to the spending review had been “innovative”, the HMIC said, although it had “struggled to maintain its performance levels”.
Lincolnshire and Bedfordshire Police had also “responded well”, the report said, although as small forces they might have “limited opportunities to reduce costs further”, it said.