5,800 frontline police jobs to go
Almost 6,000 officers will be lost from the frontline in three years' time as a result of the Government's budget cuts, figures have shown.
At least 179 police stations will close and one in five will lose their front counters, revealed the report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).
Three forces - including Britain's biggest, the Metropolitan Police - may not even be able to provide an efficient or effective service for the public in the near future, the inspectors said. At least 15,000 officers will be lost as police workforces are cut by 32,400 officers and staff by March 2015, said the HMIC report.
Some 2,700 officers had already been cut from the frontlines by March this year, and this will increase to at least 5,800 (6%) by March 2015, possibly more once figures from the Met and Cheshire are included. Neither could provide detailed figures of how the cuts will affect their frontlines by 2015.
But the proportion of officers on the frontline will increase to between 81% and 95% as the number of non-frontline officers is almost halved, with 7,600 going by 2015, it said. In a bid to offset the closures of front desks and stations, some 137 police access counters will be set up in libraries and supermarkets.
Sir Denis O'Connor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, said forces were "protecting but not preserving the frontline". While 6% cuts to the frontline could be achieved, a third off the non-frontline with the loss of 20,300 officers and staff would require a "transformation" of policing, he added.
Policing Minister Nick Herbert said: "This report makes it clear that the frontline of policing is being protected overall and that the service to the public has largely been maintained."
But shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the report showed frontline policing was being badly hit, with "thousands of officers being lost from emergency response and neighbourhood teams".
And the Association of Chief Police Officers admitted that reducing crime and increasing public confidence in policing will become more difficult over the next few years.