An analysis of police financial forecasts has revealed forces in the South West could face a combined budget shortfall of more than £46m by 2026, potentially putting public safety at risk, says UNISON today.
The data, based on medium-term financial plans submitted by individual police forces to their local police and crime panels, reveals drastic cuts to the spending they had planned.
The worst affected force in the South West is Avon and Somerset (£17m), followed by Devon and Cornwall (£16m). Together the two will have a combined budget deficit of £33m by 2026. Police forces across England and Wales could face a £720m shortfall over the same period.
While forecasts are likely to be adjusted, police budgets look likely to be considerably short of what’s needed, says UNISON.
As a result, tackling and preventing crimes such as anti-social behaviour, burglaries, violent assaults, organised crime and fraud could be compromised, says the union.
Additionally, UNISON believes the impact of budget shortfalls will fall on police staff roles. These include people who answer 999 calls, and work in crime scene investigation, forensic operations and neighbourhood policing.
Many vital staff roles are already being held vacant or have been cut altogether to save money, says the union.
Cutting police staff jobs will also severely undermine the government’s pledge to put more police on the streets, UNISON warns.
This is because newly recruited officers will need to do the work once done by police staff whose jobs have now been cut, the union says.
UNISON South West regional manager Kerry Baigent said: “Without more funding to plug these huge budget shortfalls, public confidence in the police will continue to fall.
“With fewer police staff to investigate cases and smaller numbers of police and community support officers patrolling local neighbourhoods, there’s a risk crime rates will climb.
“Severe cuts to police budgets will leave many forces in the South West unable to protect communities or bring criminals to justice.
“Policing will become that much harder and staff will be left feeling increasingly anxious about their futures.
“These figures are yet another warning sign that policing is in deep crisis. Ministers must ensure forces can afford to recruit the right staff to fulfil their duties so officers can be out on the streets keeping people and their communities safe.”