Police braced for big budget cuts
Every police force in England and Wales is getting ready for major budget cuts in the next five years, it has been reported.
Forces are facing a 5% cut in government funding in 2015/16, an investigation by the BBC found.
After 2016 they are expecting austerity measures amounting to hundreds of millions of pounds, although the precise level of savings will depend on the outcome of the general election.
Some forces are planning to bring down the number of officers to allow them to operate on smaller budgets.
And 34 forces intend to increase the part of council tax which goes to policing over the next year to lessen the impact.
It comes after a reduction of 20% since 2011 in the amount spent on police by the Home Office.
Home Secretary Theresa May has already said there will be further cuts if the Conservatives win the election.
One way she has suggested savings might be made is by integrating the three emergency services - police, fire and ambulance.
Labour has said police forces could find savings by reducing costs for equipment, IT and other services.
Peter Vaughan, acting president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that further cuts would mean fewer police officers and staff.
He also argued that falling crime levels do not mean police need less money.
Mr Vaughan, who is also Chief Constable of South Wales Police, said: "If I look at my own force, for example, crime is only 28% of what we deal with on a daily basis.
"Even when we look at crime, the changing nature of crime means we have to shift and alter our resources."
Many Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) have also warned that further cuts will mean fewer officers.
Some have forecast budget cuts to 2019, with others going up to 2020.
Among them are Kent Police, with a £61 million budget cut over the next four years; South Yorkshire Police, with £49 million between 2016/17 and 2019/20; Merseyside Police, with £47.5 million between 2016/17 and 2018/19; and Thames Valley Police with £33 million between 2016/17 and 2017/18.
One way PCCs are opting to make savings is by forging "strategic alliances between forces such as Norfolk and Suffolk Police, Warwickshire and West Mercia, Avon and Somerset and Wiltshire, Devon and Cornwall and Dorset, and South Yorkshire and Humberside".
A Home Office spokeswoman said: "Police reform is working and crime has fallen by more than a fifth under this Government, according to the Independent Crime Survey for England and Wales.
"While we acknowledge that the police funding settlement is challenging, there is no question that the police will still have the resources to do their important work. What matters is how officers are deployed, not how many of them there are in total.
"The reduction in crime nationwide demonstrates there is no simple link between officer numbers and crime levels, the visibility of the police in the community and the quality of service provided.
"This Government has made it easier for the police to do their job by cutting red tape, scrapping unnecessary targets, and giving forces the discretion to use their professional judgement.
"Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary has found that the police are successfully meeting the challenge of balancing their books while protecting the frontline and delivering reductions in crime."
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "This research shows the serious risks to policing and community safety of five more years of Theresa May and the Tories, who want to take public spending back to 1930s levels, a time before we even had the NHS.
"Chief Constables across the country would be forced to cut many more police officers even though they are already under pressure. And neighbourhood policing is being badly hit.
"Police are facing growing pressures, with a huge rise in reported child abuse, rapes and domestic violence, a surge in cybercrime and a serious threat from terrorism. Yet prosecutions for rape (and) child abuse have fallen, fewer arrests are being made and 999 waits have increased as the police are struggling to cope.
"Whilst traditional crimes like theft from cars has fallen, online crime is shooting upwards.
"Already 17,000 police officers have gone. And Theresa May's plans would mean a further 1,100 going next year."
She said Labour had set out plans for "significant savings" in the police budget, including scrapping the PCC posts, promoting co-operation between forces, increasing fees for gun licences and police driver offender retraining courses.
"Our savings would be enough to prevent the 1,100 officers going next year. Theresa May is refusing to make any of these savings so she is forcing the police to cut the frontline instead."