ONE-HUNDRED-and-fifty police and 100 civilian jobs are to be lost and more than 20 stations and offices face closure in an unprecedented pounds 10m package of cuts agreed yesterday for the cash-stricken South Wales Police.
The cuts also involve a ban on all but essential police and civilian overtime and a zero inflation limit on the force's commitment to the regional crime squad, forensic science, training and support services.
After yesterday's meeting of the South Wales police authority, Robert Lawrence, the Chief Constable, who earlier this year warned of the end of local policing in the region, said the force could just about survive.
He said: 'As long as we have a fair wind, we will just about be able to survive the year. But a few serious major incidents could throw us off course.' The force emphasised that there was no contingency fund for incidents such as a big murder investigation or disaster.
John Prosser, secretary of the Police Federation in South Wales, said morale was at rock bottom. 'Law and order is not a priority in South Wales,' he said.
The cuts in police jobs will save the force about pounds 3.6m and will be achieved by natural wastage, reducing the force well below its authorised establishment of 3,160. The force plans to move officers around to ensure that front line policing - mainly patrol and CID work - is least affected. About 50 traffic officers are being moved on to normal patrol duties.
A final decision on the stations to be closed will be made next month but the force emphasised yesterday that only about four were full-time stations and the remainder were local, lightly manned offices serving rural communities. A number are likely to be merged with their neighbouring stations or offices. The move will only save about pounds 140,000.
The effect of the zero inflation limit in other areas will be to restrict investment in equipment or schemes and reduce scientific work and car mileage. Savings on overtime will amount to about pounds 2.3m; the force said it would be able to provide limited cover for bank holidays and major inquiries.
Mr Lawrence had asked the authority for a 'no-growth' budget of pounds 144.3m but has only been given pounds 133.8m. The three councils which comprise the police authority - South Glamorgan, Mid Glamorgan and West Glamorgan - have been financially limited by the Government. Monthly budget meetings will be held to keep track of spending over the next 12 months.
In February, the force was examined by the Inspectorate of Constabulary whose report will be published later this year and is likely to provide an objective view of the state of the force. Mr Lawrence has argued that his force is under- funded and under-manned in comparison to a force such as Merseyside, which has a lower crime rate but 1,600 more officers.
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