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Local policing 'to be hit by cuts'

Local police services will take the biggest hit from Government cuts to the policing budget, a study has warned.

The Government grant for local policing will fall by £1.36 billion, or 14%, over the next four years, according to the report by Cardiff's Universities Police Science Institute.

Its author, Dr Timothy Brain, the former chief constable of Gloucestershire, challenged claims by ministers that the cuts can be largely absorbed by "back office" efficiency savings with little impact on frontline services.

He expressed concern over whether police forces will be able to effectively tackle future disturbances on the scale of last week's riots in England.

Dr Brain predicts a total of 16,000 frontline posts could be lost - which is around the same number of officers called in to deal with the unrest in London last week.

He said: "Ministers expect the brunt of such losses to fall in the so-called back office, but with as many as 16,000 police officer posts going, there is little prospect of the frontline being unaffected. Coincidentally, 16,000 officers were needed to restore order to the streets of London last week."

Dr Brain went on: "The growth in police officer numbers since 2004/05 has been principally to enable neighbourhood, or community, policing. It is likely it will be in neighbourhood policing where the greatest impact will be felt. Police services and officers' morale are both likely to suffer.

"Ministers argue the police will be able to cope by concentrating resources - but you can only concentrate resources in one area by taking them from somewhere else."

Dr Brain's paper, Police Funding (England & Wales) 2011, analysed the combined effect of last year's Spending Review, the Police Settlement Grant and spending announcements by all 43 local police authorities.

Overall, it said there will be a cash-terms cut of £1.2 billion from the £13 billion police budget by 2014-15. Dr Brain, honorary senior research fellow at the institute, estimated the number of police job losses in England and Wales will be in excess of 34,000 by 2014-15.

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