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’

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Alan Travis Home af­fairs edi­tor

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.”

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