'Back us in fight to save policing'
Policing in Devon and Cornwall will be under "real threat" if the Home Office adopts a "one-size-fits-all approach" to the latest round of budget cuts, it has been warned.
In a letter to the region's 18 MPs ahead of the Government's announcement on spending cuts, Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer and Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Hogg said further reductions could cause "real damage" to the force.
The last round of cuts under the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review resulted in the force having to save £51 million by 2015 – a move which has seen it lose 400 officers and 500 staff.
Details of the cuts faced by the Home Office, part of the Treasury's efforts to secure £11.5 billion of cuts from Whitehall departments for the year 2015/16, will be announced later today.
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But Mr Sawyer and Mr Hogg said it was the way in which those cuts were disseminated which threatened policing in Devon and Cornwall.
And they warned "the number of officers available for neighbourhood policing – the bedrock of policing intelligence and community safety and engagement – is already at a critical level across Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly".
They added: "Having worked so hard to deliver a sustainable policing plan, we are deeply concerned that a disproportionate approach to the police budget, and in particular a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to the allocation of cuts through the Home Office, creates a real threat to the provision of policing services within the peninsula.
"Further savings which impact upon neighbourhood policing will result in strong public dissatisfaction and real damage to our fundamental prevention, early intervention and safeguarding projects within neighbourhood policing work and spend to save investment in technology."
Earlier this year, Mr Hogg secured a 2% rise in council tax – defying ministerial pressure to freeze bills – to keep more bobbies on the beat in Devon and Cornwall. Without the rise, police officer numbers were forecast numbers to dip to just over 2,800 – a level last seen in the 1980s.
Mr Sawyer and Mr Hogg urged MPs to support change in the way in which forces are funded which, in Devon and Cornwall's case, does not account for the millions of visitors to the region during the summer or the problems faced by policing such a large geographical area.
The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, welcomed the letter, saying further savings could only be made by losing more personnel.