Police strength down by 1,700in the past year

Click to follow
Indy Politics

An extra 4,000 police constables are to be recruited to try to reverse the dwindling number of beat officers. The national strength has fallen by nearly 1,700 in the past year.

An extra 4,000 police constables are to be recruited to try to reverse the dwindling number of beat officers. The national strength has fallen by nearly 1,700 in the past year.

Funds for the new constables come on top of a pledge for an additional 5,000 officers during the next three years as Labour attempts to restore its battered law and order record. The Home Office wants forces in England and Wales to employ an extra 3,000 officers each year up until 2003.

Details of the recruitment drive came as the Home Secretary disclosed that police numbers are declining faster than had previously been predicted and are now at their lowest level for more than a decade.

Even with the new recruits it looks increasingly likely that there will be fewer, or a similar number, of officers at the next general election than when Labour came to power in 1997.

Police chiefs, while welcoming the new money, expressed doubts privately over whether they will be able to attract enough quality recruits.

Mr Straw revealed that in March there were 124,418 officers in England and Wales, compared with 127,158 in March 1997. Disclosing details of the Home Office's allocation of the Comprehensive Spending Review, Mr Straw said that £667m of the £1.3bn new money provided by the Treasury for the police would be spent on recruitment. The move is part of a fight back by the Government after criticism by opposition parties that it is soft on law and order. The latest crime figures show a sharp rise in the number of reported offences, with a record increase in violent crime.

Mr Straw said the extra funding will help increase the proportion of offenders brought to justice, allow the police to take more DNA samples, boost the number of scenes-of-crime officers and information technology systems.

The Home Secretary announced a £300m-a-year investment in programmes to tackle vehicle crime, domestic burglary, robbery and violent crime more generally, as well as drug offences. The new settlement will also provide funding for a national confiscation agency to deprive organised criminals of their assets.

Mr Straw acknowledged that the cost of pensions - now estimated to take 14.5 per cent of total budgets compared with 7.2 per cent 10 years ago - had created pressures on police finances. But he stressed: "The major investment I have outlined today will ensure that the police are better funded and better equipped than they have ever been before."

It was also announced that a new building programme for the Prison Service will provide 2,660 additional places.

Comments