Police face job cuts in cash review

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At least 1,500 police officers and civilian staff will be cut from forces throughout England and Wales next year as a result of a new government pay formula, a study by the Independent reveals.

Twenty-one forces will lose officers, reduce services, or freeze recruitment, a survey of all 43 police areas has found. Only four forces plan to increase their workforce, 14 will maintain current staffing, and four have yet to decide. Chief constables warn the cuts will reduce their forces' ability to fight crime.

The new funding formula, which comes into effect in April, was supposed to provide a fairer needs-based system. It follows Home Secretary Michael Howard's assurances that law and order remains a top government priority and his emphasis upon having more officers on patrol. Although the total police budget for next year has increased by about 3 per cent, many chief constables have complained the rises do not cover inflation and the increasingly large sums being paid out on pensions and pay. The worst affected forces are Greater Manchester, Thames Valley, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Dyfed Powys, Essex, Suffolk, and Lincolnshire, all of whom are predicting losses from 100 to 350 officers and civilian staff. The gainers are Hampshire, which

hopes to take on 200 extra men and women, Cheshire, Leicestershire, and South Wales.

Following widespread complaints from chief constables about this years' budgets, the Home Office is drawing up a new formula for 1996/7. David Wilmott, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, one of the hardest-hit forces, has said 350 jobs will go, together with plans for a DNA database and new recruitment of special constables. Despite getting £8m more - about 3 per cent - the force will have to pay £6.5m extra on pensions and a pay rise.

Merseyside police have sent a delegation to the Home Office to protest about their "derisory" increase - £0.5m, less than a quarter of a per cent.

Michael Argent, Chief Constable of North Wales, which will receive an extra £700,000, has proposed a series of cuts include the loss of officers and small rural stations. Thames Valley estimates its budget next year means 350 job losses.

Alun Michael, Labour's home affairs spokesman said: "We have got ... a formula which is unclear and a Home Secretary who does not seem to understand the issues with which he is dealing." A Home Office spokeswoman said police forces had received an extra £180m for next year. She said: "If chief officers decide to cut staff, that is a matter for them."

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