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Police cuts tipping point 'close'

Further cuts to policing in Britain could leave forces without the resources to protect the public from threats including terrorism, the retiring president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) has warned.

The "tipping point" between cutting police resources and numbers, and increasing the risk to the public, is close, Sir Hugh Orde told the Observer newspaper.

There has been a reduction of 20% since 2011 in the amount spent on police by the Home Office and Home Secretary Theresa May has already said there will be further cuts if the Conservatives win the forthcoming election.

One way some forces are reportedly going to try to operate on smaller budgets is by reducing the number of officers.

Sir Hugh, who is shortly due to stand down ahead of the creation of a new body, the National Police Chiefs' Council, told the paper that taking police off the streets is a clear risk in the fight against extremism.

He said: "The critical element, it seems to me, with dealing with people who will start to behave differently in their communities is the confidence in that community to speak to the local cops. If the cops aren't there and that relationship has not been built we won't get the intelligence."

Asked directly whether police would have adequate resources to protect the public in the context of cuts, he said: "In my professional judgement, the answer is no."

Sir Hugh said while it is accepted police cannot be exempt from cuts, he questioned how much more the forces can take.

Labour has claimed another 30,000 police officers could be lost if the Conservatives are returned to power in May.

Almost 7,000 police community support officers could also be cut by 2020, Labour said, after commissioning figures from the House of Commons Library based on trends during the current Parliament.

Yvette Cooper MP, Labour's Shadow Home Secretary, said: "Conservative plans to cut spending back to 1930s levels would mean the end of neighbourhood policing.

"These figure show that under these extreme and risky Tory plans a further 30,000 police officers could be lost - the equivalent of almost the entire Metropolitan police force.

"This is on top of the 17,000 cut since 2010 and would mean police numbers falling by a third after ten years of the Tories. And it would mean we would have fewer than 100,000 police officers.

"More serious and violent crimes including child abuse, rape and domestic violence are being reported, the terror threat has grown, and there has been a massive increase in online crime. Now is not the time to risk this kind of Tory attack on frontline policing.

"We've always said Labour will need to make savings to get the deficit down. That's why we have already set out plans to scrap elected police and crime commissioners, require joint purchasing of equipment by police forces, and make other efficiency savings to protect the police officers that the Tory plan would cut immediately next year.

"But we won't stand for Tory plans to go back to the 1930s. Community policing won't survive five more years of the Tories."

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said his force had lost about 15% of its grant, £600 million, in 12 months.

It had managed to maintain police numbers by making savings in the back office - they had lost 3,500 staff and buildings had been sold.

He told LBC: "We have maintained the front line, so we are proud of that. Over the next few years, it is going to get very hard."

He said he feared that after the next government gets in, the force will lose another 15%, a total of a third, or £1.4 billion.

"When we have to find that amount, numbers will drop," he said. "We will have less police, we will have to manage it.

"We have still got to invest in counter terrorism, if people out there are trying to kill us, we'd better do something about it, and that means a lot of hard work."

A Home Office spokesman 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."

The spokesman added: "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."

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