Government spending cuts have 'severely dented' public trust in police, MPs warn
Public confidence in the police has been "severely dented" after a wave of Government spending cuts, a powerful committee of MPs has warned.
Funding for forces in England and Wales has fallen by nearly a fifth since 2010, with the number of officers and staff plummeting by a similar proportion.
A new report by the Public Accounts Committee said the police are now "under increasing strain", with some forces "cutting back" on neighbourhood policing and pulling officers off the beat.
"Policing by consent relies on public confidence and this is being severely dented," the cross-party group of MPs said.
They added: "Despite the pressures facing forces, it is disappointing that the Budget did not address the financial sustainability of police forces, particularly in relation to neighbourhood policing which has borne the brunt of cuts."
The committee also said forces were feeling the impact of "cost shunting", with cuts to other public services such as health piling extra pressure on cops who are expected to act as the "first line of response".
The MPs meanwhile blasted the Home Office for failing to show "strategic leadership" and make "tough choices" about ministers' priorities for policing.
"It does not have a national picture of demand for police services and so has a limited understanding of what resources forces need," the committee said.
The department is accused of failing to come up with a "proper formula" for distributing central government cash to local forces, resulting in "crude cuts" which fail to take local circumstances into account.
Meg Hillier, chair of the committee said: "Funding reductions of nearly a fifth have placed severe strain on police forces, which have in turn been forced to cut back. The results are stark."
She added: "In this context it is not surprising that officers’ personal resilience is under pressure, too – not least from serving as ‘first responders’ as cuts to other public services continue to bite.
"This cannot continue. Government must show leadership and get on with fixing the flaws at the heart of its approach to policing."
Labour pounced on the findings, saying the report had painted a "damning picture of government underfunding and mismanagement of the police force".
Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott added: "Austerity in policing continues, with the Budget offering nothing new except a dubious claim to be increasing funding for counterterrorism. Police forces are reaching a crisis point and the Government should end this reckless policy."
But a Home Office spokesperson said: "We are on the front foot in engaging with the police and recognise the changing demands they are facing.
"The government’s balanced approach to the economy has helped ensure there is £1bn more of public money going into policing than three years ago and the home secretary has been clear that he will prioritise police funding.
"As the Chancellor noted in the budget, we will review police spending power at the provisional police funding settlement in December."
The hard-hitting report comes after a string of police leaders warned ministers that a push to create new hate crime offences would heap extra pressure on stretched forces.
Sarah Thornton - chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) - said plans to add misogyny and ageism to the list of hate crimes could distract the police from "the basics".
She said: "I want us to solve more burglaries and bear down on violence before we make more records of incidents that are not crimes."
Writing in today's Telegraph, however, Policing Minister Nick Hurd insisted police had to do a better job of explaining their decisions "clearly and credibly" to the public.
He said: "The British public know our police are under pressure. We expect the police to take all reports of crime seriously and for each case to receive an initial investigation.
"But when all is said and done, any decision not to investigate further must be properly communicated to the victims."