‘Nightmare’ police cuts will put lives at risk, say officers

Crime scene in Vickers Road, Firth Park.
Crime scene in Vickers Road, Firth Park.

Police today warned ‘nightmare’ cuts to the South Yorkshire force will put lives at risk as they launched a campaign to keep bobbies on the streets.

The Police Federation said budget cuts meant 600 police officer jobs had been axed in the last eight years.

Neil Bowles

Neil Bowles

And by 2020 police chiefs estimate there will only be 2,000 officers – 1,300 less than in 2007. There are 2,620 officers now with 30 due to retire before the end of March.

South Yorkshire branch of the Federation, which represents rank and file bobbies, labelled Government funding cuts a ‘policing nightmare’ as they launched their ‘Cuts Have Consequences’ campaign.

Chairman Neil Bowles warned: “Officers on the frontline can’t cope now so with less of them in the future how can they be expected to keep the public safe when their own safety is already an issue now.

“Crime is going to increase, it’s already starting to and the safety of the public will be compromised. Lives will be put at risk.”

The Federation is urging South Yorkshire residents worried about the impact on crime and their safety to lobby local politicians to fight for more cash to protect the county’s police service.

The first budget cuts were made in 2007 and police chiefs must find savings of £74.5 million before 2017.

They have led to police chiefs cutting the number of roads policing officers to 90 compared to 142 in 2010.

And bosses last year announced they had axed their successful cold case review team, which investigated unsolved murders and rapes.

The cuts have also led to the closure of 13 police station ‘front counters’ over the last five years, the number of dog handlers employed by the force has dropped from 36 to 25 and the number of police officers in the force’s mounted section has reduced from 12 to eight.

Bosses have also been forced to recruit more volunteer special constables than any other force in the country over the last year in a bid to maintain their presence.

Mr Bowles warned: “The budget cuts mean less policing in South Yorkshire. This affects every resident, employee, child, student and pensioner in Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield.

“We have lost 600 police officers since 2007.

“People in South Yorkshire deserve to be protected by a well-resourced police force – they deserve to feel safe in their own homes and on the streets of the county. Cuts do have consequences. Less does mean less.

“If you value your police force, if you are scared of the consequences of the cuts, please take note of our campaign and then write to or visit your MP, the other candidates standing at the general election, your councillors and write to your local and national papers.

“Make the decision-makers aware of your concerns before it is too late to save the best police service in the world. Once it has gone, it has gone. Help us wake up from this nightmare.”

He said there will be adverts on buses and billboards challenging the cuts and warning of possible consequences.

“Where are the effects of these cuts mainly being felt? In neighbourhood teams – the lifeblood of policing,” said Mr Bowles.

“The men and women on the front line of protecting you, your families, your homes and your businesses from crime.

“The number of officers working in communities have been drastically reduced. These officers are the heartbeat of policing, linking in and gaining the trust and confidence of local communities.

“Things aren’t right. The public pay for policing – but they are being short changed.”

But police chiefs today vowed to try and provide a ‘high-quality service’ despite challenging cuts.

Deputy Chief Constable Andy Holt said: “Budget cuts present us with a significant challenge and my job is to ensure we deliver the best possible service to the public of South Yorkshire with the budget we are provided.

“We hope people recognise we have to make some very difficult decisions, however we will strive to continue to offer a high-quality service to members of the public, drive down crime and provide a timely and appropriate response to the variety of incidents we deal with on a daily basis.”

South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings said: “Police forces up and down the country are having to make tough decisions as the amount of central government funding is reducing year on year.

“Here in South Yorkshire it is even more challenging as we have unique legacy issues, around the Hillsborough inquests and Orgreave, where the scale of the costs cannot be easily quantified.

“I am working with South Yorkshire Police to look at how we can use our available resources differently to work more efficiently, in a smarter, more imaginative way.

“For instance making use of new technology or collaborating with other forces can make policing both more efficient and effective.”

Last month Chief Constable David Crompton warned no services were safe as his and neighbouring police forces battle to save money.

Human resources, IT, procurement and underwater search teams have already merged and bosses are looking at every other department, including finance, vetting, communications, call handling and health and safety, plus specialisms such as firearms and dogs and the major incident team.

Dr Billings wants the police force to share more buildings, including schools, libraries and community centres as well as fire stations, in a bid to cut costs.

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