Number of `beat bobbies' declining

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The Independent Online
The number of uniformed police officers fell this year despite the Home Secretary's repeated assurances that there are now more bobbies on the beat, according to a survey published today.

The study also shows how the level of police cover fluctuates greatly throughout the country. London has the highest concentration of officers, with one for every 271 residents, while Cambridgeshire has the lowest with one for every 563 citizens.

Other findings include that the police will spend £25m on stationery and printing this year, and a similar amount on uniforms and laundry. And contrary to popular opinion police officers are getting older, not younger.

The drop in the number of policemen and women comes as chief constables are predicting a further decline following the Home Office's new funding formula. Earlier this month they warned that more than 1,000 officers will lose their jobs next year as a result of cuts in their budgets.

Today's report - Police Statistics - by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy found that the total number of police officers on ordinary police duties stood at 125,813 in April 1994 - a decrease of 0.3 per cent on April 1993.

The drop comes at a time when the Government is trying to rebuild its shattered law and order credentials and will be used by chief constables as further evidence that they are not being provided with enough manpower to deal with the growing crime wave.

The Government, however, argues that there has been a sharp increase in the number of civilian workers who have freed uniformed officers from desk jobs. Since 1987 the number of civilians employed by police authorities has increased by 34 per cent to 36,000, the report says.

Under the new funding formula money will be allocated according to factors such as crime rate, population, and unemployment levels. Many forces are to receive greater funding, but others such as those in the North-west will get substantially less next year.

The annual Cipfa study, which covers all 43 police authorities in England and Wales, found that the age profile of police officers has been changing during recent years, with the proportion of officers aged over 45 increasing from about 14 per cent of the force in 1986 to 19 per cent in 1993. During the same period the proportion of officers aged under 25 fell by half to about 6 per cent.

Just over half the police strength is made up of patrol officers - 55 per cent nationally - with the highest proportion in South Wales and Lincolnshire and the lowest in the City of London and Bedfordshire.

The chances of encountering a police officer appear to depend on which part of the country you live. In London there is one officer for very 270 residents, but in other metropolitan areas, such as Merseyside, this rises to 308. In Greater Manchester it is 365 and in the West Midlands 371. The forces with the lowest concentration of officers - all with less than one officer for every 535 residents - are Cambridgeshire, North Yorkshire, West Mercia, Suffolk, and Hampshire.