Police officers speak up over budget cuts
POLICE officers in Newcastle fear policing in the town will be severely affected by cuts to Staffordshire Police's budget.
Eight local officers voiced their concerns over the force's plans to close police stations and continue a recruitment freeze at a meeting with Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper yesterday.
The sit-down came the day after Staffordshire Police Authority narrowly voted to freeze the force's 13 per cent portion of council tax rates.
The decision means recruitment will be suspended for another three years and the A19 regulation, which forces officers to retire after 30 years, will stay in place until 2015.
Police stations in Newcastle and Kidsgrove will also be closed as the force's budget for 2012/13 absorbs a further £6 million in spending cuts.
Miss Cooper met with Staffordshire Police Federation's chairman Andy Adams and secretary Dean Colley, along with current officers and those forced out by A19.
Mr Adams said: "Yvette Cooper wanted to meet local officers and get their viewpoint.
"They raised a number of local issues. The closure of Newcastle police station is a concern, because it's an iconic building and the community knows where it is.
"If there was a desk within the civic office instead it's not going to have the same appeal for people to come in.
"The lack of response officers, who respond to 999 calls, is also an issue.
"The chief constable made a commitment to maintain community policing, but the number of response officers is falling.
"Some of them are replacing community officers, who are being forced out under A19."
The continuation of A19 alongside an extension of the force's recruitment freeze was also discussed.
Mr Adams said: "There are serious concerns about the inability to recruit new officers, and the continued use of A19 is removing the most experienced officers.
"The police authority decision has had a major impact on morale. If people leave there is no way to fill those positions."
Miss Cooper said what she had heard backed up her belief that front line policing was suffering.
"I came to Newcastle because I wanted to hear from officers on the front line about what difference the Government cuts are making," she said.
"Here in Staffordshire I think the chief constable has been put in an impossible situation, facing massive budget cuts.
"There are experienced officers who want to carry on working, but are forced to retire. This doesn't save money long-term because they are not paying tax but the Home Office has to pay their pensions.
"It was really striking to hear from the officers themselves about the perfect storm they are facing."
But a Home Office spokesman maintained the Government's stance that frontline policing was not suffering under the budget cuts.
He said: "As the independent inspectorate of constabulary has made clear, the proportion of the police workforce on the frontline is in fact increasing.
"With some 25,000 officers in backroom posts, there is plenty of scope to make savings while protecting the frontline policing."