Police chiefs in South Yorkshire Police are set to merge virtually every department with neighbouring forces in a bid to save cash – protecting only neighbourhood teams from the axe.
The warning was issued by Chief Constable David Crompton, who said nothing was safe as police forces battle to save money. He said with government budget cuts leaving him having to find savings of £49 million by the end of 2016, plans are being made for mergers with neighbouring forces – both back office functions and frontline services.
Mr Crompton said: “We are reaching the stage where with almost anything we can do jointly with other police forces, we plan to do that,
“We already have joint human resources, IT and procurement. Anything else we can do jointly to save money will have a strong case – finance, vetting, communications, call handling and health and safety, plus specialisms such as firearms and dogs and those which investigate organised crime and murder investigations; almost everything over and above local policing.
“Basically anything above and beyond police officers and community support officers patrolling the streets is up for grabs.
“If we can do it more efficiently with another force or local authority then we will look at it.
“Some issues we deal with are the same that local authorities deal with too – domestic abuse, anti-social behaviour and troubled families. We both invest a lot of time and money dealing with the same issues and people, so those are examples of how we could work together more efficiently.”
He said he was keen for his force to preserve its local officers with local knowledge, but admitted that if the mergers go ahead officers from neighbouring forces would be used in South Yorkshire.
The number of officers employed by South Yorkshire Police has dropped from 3,300 in 2007 to 2,600 today.
And Mr Crompton admitted more police officers posts and civilian roles need to be axed.
He said: “There would still be a local element to policing, we would just be supplemented by those from other forces as and when needed, such as for murder investigations.
“Local knowledge is important – you can’t manage without it, but everyone is trained to the same standard.
“People need to be aware this is the direction we are going, because there is no end in sight to the savings we are expected to make. We know there will be more savings to be made in the future.
“My personal view is that at some point in the future the level of savings we are being asked to make will mean that something that looks like a regional police force will have to exist.
“It is logical when you look at the level of savings we are having to make.”
It was announced last month that financial support for the force is to drop from £199.5 million for the current financial year to £190 million for 2015/16.