POLICING in the area may have to undergo ‘drastic changes’ if the Government makes further forces cuts, West Mercia’s police and crime commissioner has warned.
Bill Longmore has raised concerns over the future of the force, admitting there was ‘very little fat left to trim’.
The Government is believed to be planning more cuts following a spending review in November and Mr Longmore said these could have a ‘significant’ affect on the way areas are policed.
“People have shared their concerns with me recently about the possible impact of further Government cuts to local policing,” he said.
“I think a lot of their concerns are legitimate, and I want people to know I am concerned as well.
“I’m pleased with how we have been able to broadly sustain the level of service the public gets, significantly improving it in some areas, whilst also achieving considerable savings at the same time.
“However, it now feels like there is very little ‘fat left to trim’ within policing in West Mercia, and if the Government does announce more significant cuts to central funding, then I think something, somewhere would have to give.
“That isn’t a reflection on the force, but we would all have to adjust our expectations about exactly what service they could realistically provide.
“There is only so far you can push these things, and I really feel like there is very little more that can be squeezed without drastic change.”
Mr Longmore, the elected member responsible for holding police bosses to account, also criticised proposals to set up a ‘volunteer crime squads’.
“Volunteers play an incredibly useful and important role in modern policing – whether that’s as a special constable, or in a variety of other roles,” he said.
“I am very grateful for their contribution, but the key here is that they are there to supplement existing officers and staff, not replace them, which is what the Government seems to be proposing.
“Policing is a skilled profession, and as far as I’m concerned, to suggest you could replace properly trained officers with volunteers sounds like a recipe for disaster.”
Harriett Baldwin, MP for West Worcestershire, said the force was well place to deal with any funding cuts due to the amount of money they have in reserve.
“My constituents really value the excellent work our local police do,” she said. “They have managed to save millions already by working closely with Warwickshire Police,” she said.
“I know they have wisely put millions of pounds in reserves and there are further savings that can be achieved in procurement, shared services, property and elsewhere.”