By Dan Santy 02/08 Updated: 07/08 14:47
ALARM has been expressed at the further loss of police officers in Warwickshire.
Home Office figures reveal Warwickshire Police lost more officers than any other force, bar one, in the country, despite being England and Wales' smallest force. Warwickshire lost another 75 officers in the past year - chopping the total headcount to 802, compared to over 1,000 just four years ago.
The fall represents a drop of over eight per cent and is one of the highest experienced in the country, surpassed only by Derbyshire which suffered a ten per cent hit. Nationally police staffing is now at its lowest level since 2003.
The blow dealt to the county force has been met with anger by the Warwickshire Police Federation, the organisation representing rank and file officers.
Chairman Simon Payne said: "We read the Home Office figures with shock and alarm.
"The question now is who is going to fill the gap left, as it's only going to get worse. We expect nationally to have lost 15,000 officers by 2015.
"Morale within Warwickshire Police is already at an all time low. The thin blue line is being stretched and in some places has already been broken.
"It's very simple. The more cops we have, the less crime there is, and it works both ways so less cops of course means more crime."
Mr Payne also voiced concern about the 'privatisation' of the country's policing, questioning whether the cuts would pave the way for security firms like G4S to take over.
"We see this this as a pre-meditated attack on our police forces. They are being deliberately under-funded to make way for private security companies to come in and make a profit.
"I can appreciate they need to save money, but it's about making savings fairly and proportionately. At the moment we've got police officers and the public asking exactly what's going on between the Government and G4S.
"You need only look at the debacle around the Olympics and G4S to know that any ideas to privatise our police service should be dead in the water."
Rugby's Conservative, MP Mark Pawsey, however defended the changes to Warwickshire Police and refuted claims the Government was trying to privatise policing.
He said: "The new approach appears to be working with recorded crime falling by over ten per cent in the first quarter of this year.
"The reduction in police is a process started by the previous Government, when officer numbers fell in Warwickshire by almost ten per cent.
"It is clear officer numbers alone do not cut crime and is interesting to note that in 2006, at a record level of police officer numbers in Warwickshire, the daily amount of crimes was 33 per cent higher than it was in June 2012.
"The Government has made it perfectly clear there is no intention to privatise our police force. Indeed, only a few months ago, policing minister, Nick Herbert reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to policing and said the suggestion that the police force is being privatised was 'mischievous and misguided'."
In a statement, Warwickshire Police said it had no choice but to cut officer numbers due to budget pressures, and the alliance being set up with West Mercia Police aimed to minimise the impact of the reduction in officer numbers.
A spokeswoman said: "Warwickshire and West Mercia need to reduce their expenditure by over £30 million by March 2015, of which Warwickshire must reduce costs by over £10 million.
"It is not possible to reduce the costs of policing, where staffing costs account for around 80 per cent of the total budget, without losing posts."
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