MPs fear policing irrelevant as forces swamped

Policing is at risk of becoming 'irrelevant' as neighbourhood policing is stripped back and vast numbers of crimes go unsolved, a major new report warns.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 25th October 2018, 11:01 am
Updated Thursday, 25th October 2018, 12:03 pm

Forces in England and Wales are “struggling to cope” and there will be dire consequences for public safety unless they are provided with additional funding, according to the Commons Home Affairs Committee, which also accused the Home Office of a “complete failure of leadership”.

Its inquiry found offences including robbery and vehicle-related theft are increasing at an alarmingly steep rate.

Labour’s Yvette Cooper, MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, who chairs the committee, said: “Police officers across the country are performing a remarkable public service in increasingly difficult circumstances, but forces are badly overstretched.

Crime is up, charges and arrests are down, and the police service is struggling to respond effectively to emerging and growing challenges, such as online fraud and online child abuse. “Policing urgently needs more money.”

The assessment said forces have lost at least a fifth of their neighbourhood policing capacity on average since 2010.

Flagging up the role played by neighbourhood teams in tackling terrorism and gang crime, the report said: “It is absolutely vital that this cornerstone of British policing is reaffirmed throughout the country, to ensure that trust and legitimacy is maintained.

“This is particularly important in communities in which distrust of the police – and in public authorities more widely – is rife, and in which those local links are all the more important. Nevertheless, in all neighbourhoods, without local engagement, policing is at risk of becoming irrelevant to most people, particularly in the context of low rates of investigation for many crimes.”

Urging ministers to prioritise policing in the Autumn Budget, the report said: “Without additional funding for policing, we have no doubt that there will be dire consequences for public safety, criminal justice, community cohesion and public confidence.”

The findings chime with a recent warning from Whitehall’s spending watchdog, while earlier this month a chief constable warned policing had reached its “tipping point”.

A Home Office spokesman said: “The policing minister has spoken to leaders in every force in England and Wales to better understand the demand and changing nature of crime faced by forces. “We are now working closely with the police to gather the evidence to ensure they continue to receive the resources they need at the next spending review.”

Neighbourhood policing has proved a contentious issue in Yorkshire.

In South Yorkshire, chief constable Stephen Watson last year reversed an unpopular decision by his predecessor to scrap neighbourhood teams as a reaction to austerity measures.

A Yorkshire chief constable has warned that there could be hundreds fewer officers as a result of a further Government squeeze on already stretched budgets.

Chief constable of Humberside Police Lee Freeman said his force would have to find £9.2m over the next two years under proposed changes to pension arrangements, “the equivalent of losing 180 new officers or every PCSO we have in force”.

The country’s most senior police officers and police and crime commissioners have joined forces to urge the Government to rethink after the Treasury decided forces needed to contribute more towards pension liabilities.