UK & World News
Warning Over Budget Cuts For Police Forces
Police forces across England and Wales will struggle to deal with major crimes if further budget cuts take place over the next four years, a watchdog has warned.
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has expressed "growing concern" about the number of police being taken off the streets.
The watchdog's latest assessment of how 43 police forces in England and Wales are dealing with 20% budget cuts found many small police forces will be at risk over the coming years.
Forces with the lowest cost of policing per head have been highlighted as being the most vulnerable, with Lincolnshire and Suffolk of particular concern.
"Continuing to apply the cost reductions in the same way in the next four years as they've been applied in these four years is not an option," said Inspector Zoe Billingham.
"We're very clear that the viability of some forces could be placed in jeopardy in three to five years' time.
"By that we mean they would have to cut too hard and too deep into neighbourhood policing and they may not be able to guarantee or maintain the service that we're currently seeing to the public."
The watchdog also found that neighbourhood teams are already being stretched, with a third of people having seen fewer officers on patrol over the past year.
The report said: "Limited options to make savings will inevitably drive some forces to make deeper cuts into neighbourhood policing, and they may struggle to respond to unexpected events, for example public order problems such as rioting or demonstrations or major crime such as multiple murders or kidnaps."
The watchdog also highlighted Bedfordshire, Nottinghamshire and Gwent as urgently needing to improve the way they cope with budget cuts.