Police numbers fall as budgets continue to rise

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The Independent Online
THE NUMBER of police officers in England and Wales has fallen by 793 despite increased spending, Home Office figures reveal. In the fifth annual drop the numbers fell to 123,922 in the year ending March 1999 - a reduction of less than 1 per cent. Nearly three-quarters of the 43 forces recorded a drop in numbers. At the same time the police budgets increased by an average of 3.7 per cent.

Chief constables have been spending much of the extra money on pension payments, computers and hi-tech crime fighting techniques such as DNA analysis.

The City of London police recorded the biggest percentage drop in manpower with a fall of 5.7 per cent - 46 officers. Durham had the highest increase with 3.5 per cent - 53 officers. The new figures bring to 1,043 the total reduction in police numbers since Labour came to power, despite its manifesto pledge to get more police officers "back on the beat".

The Liberal Democrat deputy leader, Alan Beith, said: "These figures are a huge embarrassment to the Government and to the Home Secretary. Jack Straw criticised John Major's government for allowing the number of police officers to fall, but under Labour police numbers have plummeted."

John Newing, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said that operational policing need not be affected.