"The Prime Minister's claim that the proportion of front line officers has gone up was both wrong and out of touch." - Cooper

Yvette Cooper MP, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, commenting on HMIC figures showing that 9 out of every 10 police officers lost were from the frontline, said:

"The Prime Minister's claim that the proportion of front line officers has gone up was both wrong and out of touch.

“For a start, communities want to know about police numbers not just the proportion on the front line. And the Policing Minister admitted in the debate today that front line numbers are going down. Over 4,000 officers have gone from front line jobs in the first year of the Tory-led Government alone.

“And these new figures from HMIC also show that 9 out of 10 of the total police officers lost in the first year were from front line jobs. That means the proportion of officers on the front line has fallen too.

“This Government is cutting the police too far and too fast. We have continually warned that cutting 20% from the police budget and cutting 16,000 police officers across the country would have a damaging impact on the front line.

“The Government should switch to our plans for a 12% cut to the police budget so that the number of police officers and front line services can be protected.

“The Prime Minister and the Home Secretary need to set out a plan to cut crime instead of just cutting police officers.

“Personal crime, including theft, robbery and violence, has gone up by 11 per cent over the last year - the steepest increase for over a decade. This is a terrible time to cut 16,000 police officers. The Tory-led Government is out of touch with communities on crime and public safety, and they need to think again.”

Bridget Phillipson, Labour MP for Houghton & Sunderland South and member of House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee added:

"It's deeply worrying that in the North East, 154 front line police officers have been cut. This is bound to have an impact.  I am worried not only how it will effect serious and low level crime in this region, but also the effect it will have on the morale of ordinary police officers. Quite frankly, David Cameron and his Home Secretary Theresa May should think again and put public safety first."


Editor’s notes

1. 9 out of every 10 police officers lost in first year of this Government was from the frontline.
House of Commons Library analysis of HMIC data shows that from March 2010 to March 2011, 9 out of every 10 police officers lost were from the frontline as determined by HMIC criteria.
Source for analysis:
Information provided in this response is taken from HMIC Valuing the Police and HO Police Officer Strength bulletin:

·        According to Demanding Times, HMIC ‘the police front line comprises those who are in everyday contact with the public and who directly intervene to keep people safe and enforce the law’

·        Between March 2010 and 2011 police officer strength in England and Wales fell by approximately 4,600 (3.2%)

·        HMIC data suggests that approximately 4,100 of these were front line officers and 500 non-front line. This is a fall of 3.5% in the number of front line officers and 2% of non-front line.

·        The HMIC report Adapting to Austerity, published in July 2011, suggests that between 2010 and 2015 officer strength will reduce by 16,200.

·        The HMIC background data estimated that police officer strength at March 2012 would be 136,500.

·        Actual police officer strength at 30 September 2011 had already fallen below this and stood at 135,800.
2. Theresa May quotes on protecting the frontline
“First of all, at any moment in time only 11% of police visible, available and visible, and that doesn’t mean to say that none of the rest of them are actually involved in dealing with crime of course but only 11% are available and visible and that forces can reduce their budgets by 12% not affecting front line policing by taking money out of back and middle office costs.  That’s what forces are now doing and looking at up and down the country but what we are also doing as a government is giving help to the police to be able to get out on the beat so they can be dealing with crime because I want to see our police to be crime fighters and not form writers.”
Theresa May, Sky News, 30 January, 2011 - http://skynews.skypressoffice.co.uk/newstranscripts/dermot-murnaghan-talks-theresa-may-home-secretary-about-changes-control-orders-and-c

“Well, we know that the police are there to cut crime, and we’re going to help them by taking the axe to Labour’s bureaucracy. The steps we’ve already taken will save up to 3.3 million police hours every year – the equivalent of more than 1500 officers, out there policing your streets. And there will be more to come.
We’re also going to help them by making sure that as we reduce budgets, we cut waste, not frontline services.
But before I explain how, let me explain what’s happening to police budgets. When you factor in the council tax precept, the police will face a six per cent cash reduction in total over four years.
Through better procurement, improved efficiency and a likely pay freeze, there is no reason at all why frontline police services should not be maintained and improved.”
Theresa May, Speech to Conservative Party Conference, 4 October 2011

JH:        And when the police say to you, as surely some of them will, Home Secretary, you are making substantial cuts. The Police Federations says that up to 40,000 police staff jobs could be lost as a result of the cuts. Let’s not dispute that particular figure but clearly there are going to be cuts and we have the Olympics coming up in only less than a year from now. What will you then say to them?
TM:        Of course we take the issues around the Olympics very seriously. An awful lot of work has already gone into planning in relation to security and public order in relation to the Olympics. We will continue to monitor that and continue to look at what is necessary.
JH:        So you will reconsider the cuts, in other words?
TM:        No. A sum of money is being made available in relation to the Olympics. There is a sum of money available, £600 million. Currently the calculations are that the security can be provided for less than that but we will of course be ensuring that we look at what is needed in order to ensure the security. Can I just answer the more general point you are making? It is not because of government cuts that people are going out and committing criminal behaviour on our streets. We mustn’t lose sight of that. Of course there are other issues that we need to look at such as what power the police have what resources they have. But we must not lose sight of the fact that this is not a question that is just about policing. It is about individuals, often young people, not solely young people, but some very young people going out on our streets, looting, thieving and committing violence. This is criminal activity. We need to not only deal with it when it is happening but bring those who are doing it do justice so they see there are consequences to their actions.
JH:        I wasn’t talking about the cuts to the police force specifically and asking you whether you might reconsider those cuts in light of what has happened in the past few days and the fact that a year from now we’ll have the Olympics.
TM:        If I was to start explaining to you why the government is making cuts, I suspect you might interrupt me and say we’ve heard that before.
JH:        No I am asking you a very straight forward question. Given what has happened will you reconsider the cuts to the police force?
TM:        The government has had to ensure that it has a credible plan for the deficit. That’s what we have. I think you see from the fact that the UK is not one of those countries named in terms of economic difficulties at the moment. In terms of police cuts, we have been clear, as have HMIC, the inspectorate of constabulary, that it is possible for the police to make cuts without affecting frontline services. Of course, as I said, I will be talking to the Met particularly because London has been the main focus of this disorder although sadly we have seen some disorder in other cities last night. I will be talking to the Met about what they need to ensure that they can do the job that we all want them to be doing which is bringing an end to this disorder but also crucially ensuring that those who have been indulging in this criminal activity, the thugs and thieves, are brought to justice.  
Theresa May and John Humphries, Today, 9 August 2011