North East police forces prepare for more cuts

Police forces in the region could be forced to make further cuts, Police and Crime Commissioners have warned

Iain Buist Northumbria Police raid a property on Queen Street in Ashington, Northumberland
Northumbria Police raid a property on Queen Street in Ashington, Northumberland

Hundreds of police jobs in the North East have been axed under the current Government, new figures show - and more could be set to go.

Figures released by Policing Minister Damian Green show that Northumbria Police has lost 1,176 members of staff since 2010, making up 17.5% of its workforce.

That reduction is the third worst in the country, with only Cleveland and Lincolnshire having lost more employees.

Now the force could be forced to make further savings as the Government prepares to announce whether it will cut funding further, it has been warned.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird has said the Government’s Autumn Statement, due on December 5, would determine whether the constabulary was forced to make savings - but said frontline policing would be protected as much as possible.

Ms Baird said: “These have been challenging economic times for us all but throughout this period the Chief Constable has continued to deliver excellent policing services and keep neighbourhood policing at the heart of how we police our communities.

“The force has already achieved significant savings - £58m since the start of the Comprehensive Spending Review period in 2010. However, we continue to face a hugely challenging situation.

“We know there is a further shortfall of £10m but the exact level of government funding will not be known until the next Comprehensive Spending review announcement next month.

“I am currently working with the Chief Constable and exploring options to make savings - looking at the way we do business, the cost of running particular estate, joint buying with other forces and a raft of other options.

“The Chief Constable has pledged to protect visible policing in our communities as far as possible and I am fully supportive of this.”

The staffing figures were released after a question was asked by Welsh Labour MP Chris Ruane.

In his answer, Mr Green made it clear that the numbers included police officers, police community support officers, police staff, designated officers and traffic wardens.

The figures show huge variations in staffing loss, with Surrey Police losing just 1% of its workforce. All of the three forces in the North East have been hit by more than the national average of 12.6%, with Durham losing 435 (12.9%) workers.

MPs on Teesside have written to Home Secretary Theresa May to protest about the scale of the cuts facing the Cleveland force.

In a joint letter, Alex Cunningham, Andy McDonald, Iain Wright and Tom Blenkinsop said: “We feel that the quality and capacity of local policing is being risked by the extent of the funding cuts being imposed, with finances being prioritised ahead of community safety. We therefore urge you, in the interests of public protection, to reconsider your decision for further cuts to be made and to find alternative solutions.”

Police forces face the prospect of further upheaval after Mr Green revealed ministers were considering putting Police and Crime Commissioners in charge of fire services. It follows an inquiry into the fire service by Sir Ken Knight, the Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser.

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