JOB losses are “inevitable” after police forces across the region were told to slash £7.2m from their budgets within months, the public was warned last night.
Durham Police Authority said it had no alternative but to cut its workforce after making millions of pounds of savings in recent years, warning: “There is not an awful lot left to cut.”
The authority has called an emergency meeting for June 7, promising that its frontline service will be protected by targeting backroom staff, rather than beat officers.
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Neighbouring Cleveland could not rule out redundancies for frontline officers and said: “There comes a time when there is no more meat on the bone and we are rapidly reaching that point.”
The police authorities spoke out after every force in the country suddenly had its budget for the 2010-11 financial year reduced, as part of the new coalition government’s spending squeeze.
On Monday, the Home Office was ordered to find £367m of immediate savings as part of £6.2bn of overall cuts, deciding to take £125m out of core police grants.
In the North-East and North Yorkshire, the reductions were Cleveland (£1.3m), Durham (£1.3m), North Yorkshire (£1.1m) and Northumbria (£3.5m).
Each force also had its capital grant reduced by between £100,000 and £300,000, as part of £10m of savings.
Counter-terrorism funding will be slashed by £10m, although the Home Office said it was still maintaining 2009- 10 funding levels at £569m.
Peter Thompson, Durham authority’s independent chairman, said: “I’m very concerned, because after three years of efficiencies, there is not an awful lot left to cut.
“When you consider that 85 per cent of our funding goes on salaries, you don’t have to be too clever to work out that there will be an impact on jobs. There will inevitably have to be cuts in staff numbers.
“I don’t want to use the r-word – redundancy – but when I go around our headquarters I see the concern in the eyes of our officers.”
Dave McLuckie, Cleveland’s chairman, said the fresh 2.5 per cent cut came on top of four per cent efficiencies it had already been forced to find this year to try to avoid job losses.
And he added: “It’s a shock to the system. This latest cut could mean that we will have to reduce officer numbers for the first time, however hard we try not to affect the service to the public.”
However, North Yorkshire authority was far more relaxed about the £1.1m cut imposed, insisting it could bring forward spending reductions pencilled in for next year without any job losses.
Ironically, the cuts were announced on the same day the coalition Government confirmed it was axing Labour’s identity cards scheme, to save £800m over a decade.
The Lib Dem election manifesto had pledged to “pay for 3,000 more police on the beat, affordable because we are cutting other spending, such as scrapping pointless ID cards”.
Policing Minister Nick Herbert said the Home Office would be cutting a “greater than proportionate share of its central budget”, targeting waste, consultancy services, marketing costs and travel.
But he added: “I will ask every police authority to make a fair share of savings.
“I am clear that savings can be achieved by driving out wasteful spending on support functions, reducing bureaucracy and increasing efficiency in key functions – leaving the frontline strong and secure.”
The cuts were also attacked by David Hanson, Labour’s policing spokesman, who warned: “It will have a real impact on policing, crime and the fight against terrorism.”
The coalition has come under fire because the Conservatives, prior to the election, claimed to have identified £6bn of “waste” that could be taken out of department budgets.
However, the cuts unveiled went much deeper, taking out key projects including Future Jobs Fund for young people and the Child Trust Fund.