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More police cuts could mean public safety 'put at risk'

Hampshire Constabulary's staffing reduction levels are above average for England and Wales

Report into Hampshire Constabulary budget cuts

Hampshire's police and crime commissioner has warned that any further cuts to the force's budget could put members of the public at risk.

A recent report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) revealed that Hampshire Constabulary is on track to achieve its target of £52.9m of savings, but three-quarters of that will be made through reducing its workforce.

The report was produced to show how police forces have coped with the government's plans, announced in October 2010, to reduce budgets by 20% in the four years up to March 2015.

It praised Hampshire for its forward planning which has ensured it is on track to achieve its savings target.

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Although most forces in England and Wales are looking to their wage bills to make the majority of these savings, Hampshire is utilising this method more than most, with the number of officers set to be reduced by 21%, compared to an 11% average across England and Wales.

Overall staff numbers are to be cut by 22% compared to 14% nationally.

Simon Hayes, police and crime commissioner for Hampshire and Isle of Wight, said it was "reassuring" that HMIC had judged Hampshire Constabulary to be a strong financial position, but warned: “The reality is that by 2017 the constabulary will have had £80m of cuts imposed on it.

“The most recent cuts of £25m by 2017 will result in losing in the region of 500 staff and officers.

"These are extremely difficult and challenging times for the force and have meant an extensive review of how policing is delivered."

Simon Hayes warned of the police force being "significantly affected"
 

He added: “Going forward I question the extent to which more savings can be made through a future spending review, before the quality of service is significantly affected and public safety is put at risk.”

Despite these pressures, the report said Hampshire Constabulary had responded well to the challenge of cutting its budget and the force was praised for increasing the proportion of frontline staff and reducing crime levels.

"The constabulary understands the issues it faces and is looking beyond the current spending review, taking action now by planning for future funding reductions and other cost pressures," the report said.

"Despite the reductions in staffing numbers, the constabulary has continued to fight crime and keep its communities safe."

The report said that Hampshire, being a low-cost force that employs fewer staff and police officers than other forces, had less scope to make savings but still had plans in place to save most of the £10.6m requirements in 2014/15.

Its "ambitious" estates review, which has seen several police stations sold and Aldershot's set to follow, will bring in around £55m.

Mr Hayes said he had insisted on neighbourhood officers remaining at the core of policing, with boundaries redrawn to improve partnership working and PCSO numbers maintained, while describing the estates review as "fundamental".

Deputy Chief Constable Craig Denholm said the HMIC report was "good news for taxpayers in Hampshire", but warned that because the county's force received less funding per head than other parts of the country, further cuts would hurt it more than others.

 
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