Government report finds some police forces struggling with budget cuts

Report highlights concerns about the cuts being made in the police service. (Image: Police via

A new report has found wide variances of how police forces are coping with the impact of budget cuts, with some forces struggling under financial restraints.

The report ‘Policing in Austerity‘ was released today by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and explores how police forces across England and Wales are dealing with the 20% cuts to their budgets, as prescribed in the 2010 Spending Review.

Many of the findings back-up the Bureau’s own research into this area which was published earlier this week.

HMIC analysed the progress of each of the 43 police forces and found many rising to the challenge of the spending review.

However, the report also raises areas of concerns. It notes that ‘forces’ own data on how they respond to emergency and priority calls suggest they may not be attending as many within the required time as they have done in the past.’

The Bureau’s research highlights the forces that are struggling in this area. While overall the police service has seen an average decrease in the time it responds to emergency calls, a third of the police forces that record their response times have seen an increase in the time it takes to get to emergencies, with one force taking 30% longer than it did in 2010.

Related article: Police forces are taking up to 30% longer to react to 999 calls

The report also highlighted some police forces that are struggling with the cuts including Northamptonshire police force, which according to the HMIC report ‘has struggled to maintain its performance levels’.

The Bureau found that last year Northamptonshire faced serious issues with its answering of 999 calls, seeing a spike in the number of calls it failed to answer. The rise in abandoned calls directly correlated to redundancies of the force’s call operators, a measure brought in because of budget cuts.

Failure to answer 999 calls in a timely manner was also a problem for Devon and Cornwall. Last year in July it missed one in six 999 calls patched through to the force.

Related article: Devon and Cornwall police force missed 15% of emergency calls last July

Bedfordshire police force is also referenced in the HMIC report. It notes that the small, rural police force has ‘made the obvious cuts already’ and may struggle in making future savings.

An email leaked to the Bureau revealed officers in Bedfordshire warning their employees not to complain about the impact of the cuts to the public.

The force has also changed its target times for 999 responses since the cuts were implemented, giving itself more time to reach emergencies.

HMIC also reports that many forces have worked hard to maintain their frontline policing. But research by the Bureau found that cuts to back office staff were leading to inefficiencies and weakness.

Related article: Behind the frontline: How cuts to staff are stretching the nation’s police force

The report does note that crime is down, coinciding with Office of National Statistic figures released today which show a 9% drop in crime rates.

Last month HMIC reported they would review how police forces are recording their crime figures following findings that Kent police force were mis-recording crimes in a bid to meet targets.