South Yorkshire Police is approaching a ‘tipping point’ in its ability to deliver an effective service as cuts bite, Sheffield’s district commander has warned.
Chief Superintendent David Hartley said the force is on course to deliver savings of more than £42 million by 2016 – but warned any further Government cuts may have a major impact. About £23m worth of savings have already been delivered, with a further £19m to come.
Since April 2012, police officer numbers have been cut by the equivalent of 77 full-time posts, and there has been a reduction of more than 275 back room staff, although the number of community support officers has increased from 290 to 324.
More jobs are set to go, with a review of how local policing is structured due to be completed in the next few months – at the end of last month, the force had the full-time equivalent of 2,694 officers, 1,785 support staff and 324 PCSOs.
Mr Hartley said: “It would be naive to say there won’t come a tipping point where the service we offer will not be to the standards expected by the public.”
Mr Hartley said: “You can only use creativity, innovation and partnership so far. If you cut and cut and cut, then ultimately there will be an adverse impact.
“I don’t think we are at that point yet, but it is close. We are under real pressure.”
He said there was little scopefor further savings by cutting the number of force buildings, given the cuts already made in this area.
He said: “We have already gone through that. The police estate is a shadow of what it was three, four, five years ago. Many of the savings realised so far have come from the estate – there isn’t a great deal more capacity we can cut down.”
A spokesman for Shaun Wright, South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner, said: “Between now and 2016, South Yorkshire Police will have to reduce its budget by some £42m.
“To date, the force has delivered £23m of this target.
“While it will undoubtedly be tough to make further savings, we hope we will be able to do so in such a way it has as little an impact as possible on frontline policing.
“We acknowledge we are going to have to lose police officers and staff. However, the overall number of posts we will have to cut has not yet been identified and we will always strive to make budget reductions elsewhere before considering reducing our staffing levels.”
Mr Hartley was speaking after the screening of a TV documentary showed officers in Sheffield trying to reduce burglary and vehicle crime while dealing with the impact of budget cuts.
The two-part show, filmed last year, also examined community tensions in Page Hall in the city.
Mr Hartley said things had improved since filming and a dedicated police team was making a difference.
He said: “We’re not saying all the issues are resolved, but there have been huge improvements with the police and Sheffield Council working together. We have withdrawn from the potential of real violence and unrest. Not for a minute do I think we are there, but we are going down the right path.”