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Sajid Javid 'recognises' pressures of policing as report claims forces struggling to deliver effective service

Sajid Javid says he "recognises" the increasing pressures of policing after a major report warned that forces are struggling to deliver an effective service.

The home secretary spoke of increased training and the possibility of extending stop-and-search powers to ensure police can "deal with the changing crime landscape".

His appearance at the Police Superintendents' Association in Leicester came after a National Audit Office review covering forces in England and Wales found that arrest rates and victim satisfaction levels are on the slide.

Whitehall's spending watchdog flagged up reductions in the percentage of crimes resulting in charges, and proactive work to tackle offences such as drug trafficking and drink driving.

The review also cited indications of "stress" in the system.

Meanwhile, Metropolitan Commissioner Cressida Dick has criticised the government's refusal to award the recommended 3% police pay award.

Police forces consider themselves increasingly stretched. Credit: PA

According to the report, since 2010, funding and staffing levels have fallen, while police are now confronting rising levels of recorded "high harm" crimes and a heightened terror threat.

It warned that the Home Office’s light touch approach means it does not know if the police system is financially sustainable.

Sir Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: "There are signs that forces are already experiencing financial strain and struggling to deliver effective services to the public.

"If the Home Office does not understand what is going on it will not be able to direct resources to where they are needed, with the risk that the situation could get worse."

Mr Javid said that the government would continue to increase police funding, but acknowledged that changes "have to be made" to the system.

"Despite this increase in funding, I do fully recognise the pressures of policing," he said.

"I will continue to fight on the police's behalf so that you have the resources that you need to do your jobs effectively."

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The home secretary also said he was "consulting" on the idea of increasing stop-and-search powers in the wake of a spike in violent crime and acid attacks.

"Criminals can not walk around and feel that they can carry dangerous weapons and get away with it," he said.

"The men and women who work for you need to feel comfortable and supported when they are using stop and search."

He added: "If stop and search means that can lives can be saved in communities that are most affected then of course that is a very good thing."

Forces are already experiencing financial strain and struggling to deliver effective services to the public. Credit: PA

While no police force has failed financially, the report highlighted indications that the sector as a whole is “finding it increasingly difficult to deliver an effective service”.

It detailed how:

– The time it took to charge an offence increased from 14 days for the year ending March 2016 to 18 days for the year ending March 2018;

– The proportion of crimes which resulted in a charge or summons fell from 15% in March 2015 to 9% in March 2018;

-The arrest rate fell to 14 arrests per 1,000 population in 2016-17, down from 17 per 1,000 population in 2014-15;

– Police are carrying out less “proactive” work, with fewer breathalyser tests, motoring fixed penalty notices and convictions for drugs trafficking and possession since 2010;

– Survey data shows the proportion of victims who were not satisfied with the police response rose from 29% in the year ending March 2016 to 33% in the year ending March 2018.

The Home Office’s approach to policing is under the spotlight. Credit: PA

Commissioner Dick, speaking Police Superintendents' Association Annual Conference in Leicester, said she was disappointed that the government had only agreed to introduce a 2% police pay award.

She told the audience: "Our arguments, details and supporting evidence were accepted by the Independent Pay Review Body and we presented it to the government.

"I fully respect the government's right to make the decision - but on this occasion the government chose to ignore the recommendations of the review body and chose instead... to impose the two percent consolidating award."

Commissioner Dick added:"That feels like one percent to our officers and I am extremely disappointed by that outcome. I do regret the decision.

"I am sorry to say I do think that decision will have affected morale. I don't want the government to wait until we are struggling like the prison service with chronic understaffing."

Cressida Dick said she was 'disappointed' with the new police pay award.

The report's findings will fuel fresh debate over Government’s approach to police funding, and the service provided by forces.

Last week, analysis by the Press Association revealed hundreds of thousands of residential burglary, vehicle theft and shoplifting investigations are closed without a suspect being identified.

The total police budget for 2018-19 is £12.3 billion.

Overall funding to forces – a combination of central government grants and council tax – has fallen by 19% in real terms since 2010-11, according to the NAO.

Funding reductions by police force, 2010-11 to 2018-19 Credit: NAO

The main way that forces have managed financial pressure is by reducing the size of their workforces, the report said, citing figures showing falls of 40%, 21%, and 15% in the numbers of PCSOs, police staff and officers respectively between 2010 and 2018.

In March last year, police held £1.7 billion in “reserves” – cash set aside for specific costs or “exceptional” events.

This was down by 20% compared with two years earlier.

The NAO disclosed that in November an internal Home Office report concluded that forces were facing increased pressure in meeting demand for police services.

Police are now confronting rising levels of recorded “high harm” crimes. Credit: PA

“While the department assessed that pressure is currently at a manageable level, it identified a number of forces that were high-risk in terms of future resilience,” the watchdog said.

Plans to reform “ineffective” arrangements for allocating police funding are on hold, the NAO said, adding: “We cannot conclude that the Home Office’s oversight of the police system is value for money.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “Our decision to empower locally-accountable Police and Crime Commissioners to make decisions using their local expertise does not mean that we do not understand the demands on police forces.

“In addition, the report does not recognise the strengths of PCCs and Chief Constables leading on day-to-day policing matters, including on financial sustainability.

“We remain committed to working closely with police and delivered a £460 million increase in overall police funding in 2018/19, including increased funding for local policing through Council Tax.”

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has pledged to prioritise police funding in the next spending review. Credit: PA

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has pledged to prioritise police funding in the next spending review.

Addressing the Police Superintendents’ Association on Tuesday, he will emphasise his commitment to ensuring forces are “equipped to deal with the changing crime landscape”.

Chief Constable Dave Thompson, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for finance, said: “While policing continues to provide a good service, today’s National Audit Office report recognises that forces are under increasing strain as they deal with rising crime, demand that is more complex and an unprecedented terror threat with fewer officers.”

Shadow policing minister Louise Haigh Credit: PA

Shadow policing minister Louise Haigh said: “As violent crime surges and police resources are stretched to the limit, the Home Office has been relying on guesswork.”

Meg Hillier, who chairs the Commons Public Accounts Committee, urged the Home Office to “get a grip” on police funding.