Police poised to ignore minor crimes, MPs told
Forces lack resources to tackle retail theft – chiefs 6,000 more officers will be lost ‘unless funding rises’
More police forces are poised to give up investigating minor offences such as car crime and retail thefts without a significant funding increase in the budget next week, police and crime commissioners have warned.
The home affairs select committee was told yesterday that forces across England and Wales will lose a further 6,000 officers by 2020 without an urgent cash injection.
Kathryn Holloway, the Conservative police and crime commissioner (PCC) for Bedfordshire, told MPs her county risked becoming the “retail theft capital of the UK” because the local force could no longer afford to attend retail thefts of less than £100.
Bedfordshire police would also not attend vehicle crime such as thefts from cars, she said.
Her warning came after Sussex police said on Monday that they would seek to resolve less serious crimes over the phone or online as the force planned to focus resources only on offences that had the “biggest impact”.
The Metropolitan police have said they will no longer investigate thousands of “lower-level crimes” such as burglaries. The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, warned that funding cuts meant policing was at a tipping point in London.
“I am increasingly worried about our ability to keep Londoners’ businesses and visitors safe in the context of the cuts being made not just to the counter-terror budget, but the overall policing budget,” the mayor said. “We are at a tipping point; if the government proceeds with reductions in the next three or four years, I am seriously worried about our ability to keep our city safe.”
Police forces in England and Wales received a “flat cash” settlement in the 2015 spending review, but in the runup to the budget, a succession of senior police figures have said they need an extra £440m in 2018-19 and £845m in 2019-20 to meet increased demands, including efforts to combat terrorism.
The home secretary, Amber Rudd, told police chiefs this month that budget discussions had to be about more than lobbying the government for extra money and accused them of “reaching for a pen to write a press release” at the first sign of an upturn in crime figures.
Nottinghamshire’s Labour police and crime commissioner, Paddy Tipping, told the committee Rudd’s comments were a “bit rich” given that forces were already in talks with ministers and had been asked to prepare funding submissions.
He said the 2015 settlement had left forces across England and Wales with a £350m funding gap over the next two years that implied a loss of 6,000 police officers on top of the 20,000 gone since 2010.
He said the push for an extra £440m next year was to reinforce neighbourhood policing and increase the number of armed officers. Tipping told MPs he accepted that forces had reserves of £1.6bn, but that they were expected to fall to £806m by March 2020.
Holloway said her force was looking to see what it could not do because of the funding squeeze. She said it had been suggested “that we wouldn’t be going to retail thefts of £100 and under. I have no appetite whatsoever as the PCC for Bedfordshire in seeing my county become the retail theft capital of the UK.”