Concern over police election risk


Keith Vaz urged police forces to rethink and reduce the range of services they provide

Ministers should acknowledge the risks involved in bringing in police and crime commissioners when forces nationwide will be under pressure policing the Olympics, MPs have said.

With 20% cuts to the police budget being front-loaded over the next two years, the commissioners will be dealing with budgetary decisions they have inherited rather than made and the Home Office should set out how the transition should be managed, said the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee.

The greatest changes will be needed at the same time as the first elections for police and crime commissioners are taking place in May next year, just two months before the Olympic Games start, the MPs said. “We urge the Home Office to acknowledge that there are risks involved in this transition.”

Police forces will also have to “rethink and reduce the range of services that they provide and the way in which they provide those services” as a result of the cuts, the committee said. It also called for the Home Office to explain what it means when it asks forces to “prioritise the front line”.

In its report on police finances, the committee found the budget cuts over the next four years will lead to “significantly fewer police officers, police community support officers and police staff”.

“Police forces need a funding system that offers long-term predictability in order to be able to plan more effectively, especially at a time of reduced income,” it said.

Keith Vaz, the committee’s chairman, said: “There is no doubt that the Government is requiring significant savings from the police and whilst the link between police officer numbers and levels of crime is complex, in the police service the largest proportion of budgets by far is spent on the workforce.

“In order to make these savings, police forces will have to rethink and reduce the range of services that they provide and the way in which they provide those services.

“Taken with the election of police and crime commissioners and the restructuring of the policing landscape, this represents a fundamental change to the nature of policing.”

The report also found that, while modest, savings could be made through better procurement and the MPs added they were “disappointed” that the National Policing Improvement Agency had not already got to grips with this.

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