Police chiefs have attacked the policing minister’s suggestion that Government budget cuts could be achieved through simply improving procurement, freezing wages and increasing council tax.
Chief Constable Chris Sims, the head of Britain’s second largest force, said the political rhetoric had changed from the need for fundamental reform just a few months ago to simple steps that could now be taken to solve the problems.
Policing Minister Nick Herbert suggested earlier that, on top of 12% savings through efficiencies, forces could make the rest of the 20% cuts by imposing a pay freeze on officers, increasing the police precept in council tax and procuring equipment together.
But Mr Sims, chief constable of West Midlands Police, warned: “I think there’s a danger that we make this look a comfortable set of changes and we don’t prepare ourselves, our staff and most importantly the public for a degree of radicalism in the way the policing service is delivered.
“I am absolutely confident that we can do this, that we can maintain output and delivery, but we can’t hide from the fact that this is going to change the way that policing is seen and delivered.”
Speaking at the launch of the Commons Home Affairs Committee inquiry into policing, Mr Sims said: “I just want to observe a growing inconsistency in the way that we are describing the financial cuts.
“If we go back a couple of months I think we were really clear that this was a generational change, a real step-change in funding that would require us to make a radical review of police processes, to consider how many people we employed and how we operated, and we were absolutely up for that degree of radicalism.
“What I observe of late is that we seem to be slipping in to a description where actually the cut isn’t as is being said. But that if you simply look at things like procurement, if you consider that the freeze in police wages, if you think about precept and increasing precept (the cuts could be achieved).
“It would take a 7% increase in precept to replace 1% in grant. I don’t foresee that that is going to happen in the climate that we’re in.”
Mr Sims was speaking after Policing Minister Nick Herbert told the seminar in Cannock Chase that by raising the precept, forces could take the average saving they need to make “down to 14% in real terms”.