One in three South Yorkshire Police employees are set to lose their jobs in the next five years as cuts accelerate in the wake of the force’s dire financial position.
The force has already cut around 900 jobs since 2010 – but are now anticipating a further 1,500 roles will have to go by 2020.
The forecast means that over the course of the decade, the size of the force will be almost cut in half – with just 3,151 people employed in 2020 compared to the 5,583 who worked for South Yorkshire Police in 2010.
Bosses are now admitting community safety in South Yorkshire is potentially at risk as a result of the intended cuts.
The force was warned today that the job cut projections for the force represent a ‘best-case scenario’ because of uncertainties around the impact of numerous financial pressures - including Government cuts, paying out millions for the legal costs of former officers involved in the Hillsborough inquests, and coping with the repercussions of the fallout from the Rotherham child grooming scandal.
It is hoped special grants from the Home Office will cover some of the costs – but the force is expecting it will have to raid its dwindling reserves to cope.
The plans include cutting officer numbers by 495 posts, with 153 PCSOs going and 894 support staff being made redundant.
A new finance report going to a meeting of the Police and Crime Panel today reveals almost 500 jobs will be cut from the force by next April, including the loss of 142 officers.
After paying out more than £14m in legal costs to eight officers involved in the Hillsborough inquests, the force is now asking those involved to find ‘alternative sources of funding’.
A National Crime Agency investigation into historic child sexual exploitation cases in Rotherham is potentially due to cost the force almost £7m a year - higher than previous estimates of £3m to £5m.
Allan Rainford, chief finance officer for police and crime commissioner Alan Billings, has revealed the details in the new report being discussed by South Yorkshire councillors today.
The report outlines the force’s ongoing struggles with its budget and reveals it is forecast to go £3.8m over its £240m budget this year.
Dr Billings said: “Over the next five years the force will face a set of challenges that together will make South Yorkshire’s position uniquely severe.
“First, there is the sheer scale of the financial challenge.
“In order to achieve a balanced budget this year the force is in the process of making £15m of cuts and savings. By 2020 a further £66m will be required. Since 85 per cent of the force’s budget is spent on people that will inevitably have an impact on the workforce. Numbers of police officers and police staff will fall further.
“There are additional costs that arise from the inquests into the Hillsborough football tragedy and investigations into CSE. I have a legal obligation to help fund the legal fees of those officers who are deemed ‘interested parties’ in the Hillsborough inquests.
“The inquests are expected to continue into 2016. There are also the costs of the NCA’s criminal investigation. There will also be the costs of policing the marches and demonstrations of various right-wing groups who have used the scandals around CSE to justify their activities in South Yorkshire, particularly Rotherham.
“I will be asking the Home Secretary for Special Grants to cover these costs, but this is a matter for her discretion and she has made it very clear that central funds are limited. If we fail to receive Special Grants to meet these costs we shall be forced to use general reserves which are currently £12 million.
“Overall the position for South Yorkshire Police remains uncertain and puts significant pressure on the available resources with the potential to threaten the long-term stability of police and community safety in South Yorkshire.”
Neil Bowles, from South Yorkshire Police Federation, said nobody knows what the force will look like in 2020 as the job cuts take effect.
“It is the million dollar question. We have got to deal with what we are going to stop doing because we can’t keep doing what we are now,” he said.
SOUTH YORKSHIRE’S THINNER BLUE LINE IN NUMBERS:
WORKFORCE SIZE IN 2010:
5,583 workers made up of:
2,303 support staff
CURRENT WORKFORCE SIZE:
4,693 workers made up of:
PROJECTED WORKFORCE SIZE IN 2020:
3,151 workers made up of: