1. ITV Report

Police force reaches 'tipping point' amid budget cuts

Avon and Somerset's Chief Constable and PCC have written to the Government about the crisis. Credit: ITV West Country

Avon and Somerset's Police and Crime Commissioner and Chief Constable have warned the Government they are facing a "tipping point" in funding.

PCC Sue Mountstevens and Chief Constable Andy Marsh say further cuts to budgets would lead to "extremely serious consequences".

Last week the pair wrote to Nick Hurd, the police and fire minister, sending him a copy of a report they had written about the difficulties they face in Avon and Somerset.

In their report, Andy Marsh and Sue Mountstevens state that the force has been recognised as outstanding in efficiency.

We have achieved this by successfully transforming and innovating to manage the substantial funding reductions faced by police and other sectors. Despite a strict curb on pay increases, police officers and staff have shown tremendous resilience, professionalism and commitment, carrying out some of the toughest jobs in increasingly difficult circumstances. But we now face a tipping point. We cannot sustain further funding cuts without extremely serious consequences.

– Avon and Somerset PCC Sue Mountstevens and Chief Constable Andy Marsh
Avon and Somerset Police headquarters in Portishead. Credit: ITV West Country

Since the Government's first comprehensive spending review in 2010, the force said it had made savings of £65 million and had 655 fewer police officers. It now has to find a further £17 million by 2021/22.

Saved since 2010
Fewer police officers
Needs to be found by 2021/22
Not just a bobby on the beat. Demands on police officers are becoming increasingly complex. Credit: ITV West Country

The pair say they face major cuts in spending at the same time the demands on the force are increasing and becoming more complex. They include extremism, organised crime and drugs and abuse.

They add that tackling mental health issues and missing people can be extremely time-consuming.

Hours spent dealing with missing people and on mental health issues last year
Police at the scene of Saturday's fatal collision on the M5 Credit: ITV West Country

The challenging and tragic incidents of the last two weeks – Hastings Road, two fatal collisions on the M5 and the rise in the national terror threat to critical – are a tangible demonstration of the stretch we are facing.

Our staff have risen to the challenge to keep people safe, reassured and comforted with humanity, empathy and professionalism in very difficult circumstances.

But our continuing ability to safeguard communities, protect the vulnerable, and manage major incidents of this kind is being severely tested. It’s simply not sustainable.

– Chief Constable Andy Marsh

Andy Marsh says the situation is affecting his workforce, with increased absences linked to mental health and a cap on annual pay awards hitting recruitment.

Sue Mountstevens says enough is enough:

"We have reached the point where enough is enough and policing in Avon and Somerset cannot be stretched any further. With yet another terror attack on the country’s capital, the reverberations felt locally continue to test all those responsible for ensuring the continued safety of our local communities...

"The current situation is unsustainable. We need investment in policing, funding to strengthen our neighbourhood policing teams in order to focus on prevention, tackling terrorism before it happens".