Police chief’s fears over ‘savage’ cuts

Chief Constable Med Hughes.
Chief Constable Med Hughes.
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SOUTH Yorkshire’s top-ranking police officer has delivered a damning assessment of the impact government cutbacks will have on policing.

Chief constable Med Hughes says crime will rise as police forces shrink, unemployment soars, councils slash services and courts allow repeat offenders to remain on the streets.

Mr Hughes first made his fears known in an exclusive interview with The Star last month, but now he has delivered a report to South Yorkshire Police Authority laying out his concerns in detail.

He said reductions would “undoubtedly affect each and every area” of his force, challenging the Government’s claim that 999 response services and neighbourhood policing will remain immune from budget squeezes.

The police boss warned the cuts would mean fewer units to tackle serious and organised crime and support staff cuts would saddle officers with an “increased burden”.

Funding will be cut by 20 per cent in real terms over the next four years and the workforce at South Yorkshire Police will shrink by 1,100 posts.

But Mr Hughes believes the problem will only get worse as council spending cuts put “additional demands” on his force.

He said: “There is to be a reduction in the number of prison places and this may result in some prolific offenders living within our communities.

“At the same time, we will see an increase in community sentences with the reduced Probation Service trying to cope with additional demand.

“It seems highly likely they will struggle to provide the time and focus that these individuals will require.”

South Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Bob Pitt, who represents rank-and-file officers, said: “There will be an impact on communities and congratulations to our chief constable for telling it like it is. He has our support.

“These cuts are savage. We as a police service do an awful lot more than most of the public could ever begin to imagine.

“We are involved with hospitals, schools, social services, other public services, diversionary activities for offenders on probation, and that is before we even start the workaday job.

A Home Office spokesman said: “We believe police forces can make the necessary savings while protecting front-line services and prioritising the visibility and availability of policing.”