The number of police officers in England and Wales dropped by more than 5,000 last year to its lowest level since 2003, Home Office figures revealed today.
All but one of the 43 forces – Surrey – cut its police strength as Home Office austerity measures continued to bite.
There were 134,101 officers at the end of March, compared with 139,110 exactly 12 months earlier, a drop of 5,009. Total police strength is now down by close to 10,000 over the last two years.
The number of police staff also fell, dropping 8.8 per cent to 67,474, while the total of police community support officers went down by 9 per cent to 14,393.
But the number of volunteer special constables rose by 10.4 per cent to 20,343.
Ministers insist that the impact can be minimised on frontline policing of cuts to budgets and is urging forces to explore ways of improving efficiency and pooling resources.
They say service to the public is largely being maintained and the proportion of officers on the frontline is increasing.
The Policing Minister, Nick Herbert, said: “We inherited a situation where there were some 25,000 officers not on the frontline, so there was plenty of scope for forces to make savings while improving performance, as forces are showing as they continue to drive down crime.”
But Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary, said: “These figures show the cuts to the police are deeper and faster even than experts predicted. David Cameron's promise to protect the front line has been ripped apart by these appalling figures. In just two years the Government has taken police numbers back by nearly a decade, weakened police powers, undermined morale and reduced crime prevention.”
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