Welsh police chiefs warn MPs of staff cuts because of tight budgets

The four Chief Constables of Wales giving evidence to MPs on the Welsh Affairs Select Committee
The four Chief Constables of Wales giving evidence to MPs on the Welsh Affairs Select Committee

Welsh police chiefs say they may to cut the numbers of police staff answering 999 calls and in other roles because of tightening budgets and pressure from inflation.

But the UK Government says the forces have received "record investment" and have been enabled to recruit over a thousand extra officers as part of an overall UK figure of 20,000.

The Chief Constables of the four forces in Wales had been giving evidence to MPs on the cross-party Welsh Affairs committee.

They were asked by the committee’s chair, Stephen Crabb, if they had enough funding.

Gwent’s Chief Constable Pam Kelly said that “All public services are struggling and we know that and we know the difficulties in terms of funding being available and distributed but the reality is for a small force such as Gwent needing to find £5 million this year, and that is significant.

“And what that means is a custody suite for example, which is fundamental to to run in a police service generally costs me £1 million to run, and I need to find the equivalent of running five custody suites in savings.

“It's difficult because we've explored already every avenue in terms of collaborative working on a national level and certainly, we work really well together.”

The UK Government made a commitment in 2019 to recruit an extra 20,000 police officers, a target it reached in April.

The Home Office says that Welsh police forces individually and as a group of four forces saw the highest ever number of officers at the end of March this year, having recruited an extra 1,127 officers.

Under that recruitment push Gwent Police now has an extra 239 additional officers while South Wales Police has taken on 527.

Pam Kelly welcomed the extra recruitment but said that it was having an unexpected consequence in terms of difficult choices in other areas of the police workforce.

Welsh Police forces have been asked by MPs if they've been given enough funding. Credit: PA

“That means that the establishment of those 20,000 officers, quite rightly, needs to be maintained and that means that the only area that we can go to as it were for funding for savings are police staff, and it's our police staff that answer our 999 calls, our custody detention officers, our cyber analysts or digital forensic analysts, they're ordinarily police staff or not warranted officers.

“So it becomes much more complex than just numbers. It means that we're potentially going to lose good people with good experience because we can't afford to keep them.”

Jeremy Vaughan, who leads South Wales Police, said that if there isn’t any extra funding for pay rises then it will mean job losses.

“We were really clear with the submission of evidence to the Pay Review body this year that if any inflation rises on funded above the 2.1% that was funded as part of the spending review period, that there isn't a force out there who isn't building in vacancy management.

“So slowing down the pace at which we recruit people at different points in the year to create some capacity in the budget. Reverse workforce modernisation - that's a phrase is often used to basically put police officers into police staff roles, police staff reductions, borrowing.”

He added that he’s been given a savings target of £1m a month but that “74% of our budgets are pretty much locked and are tied to police officer numbers or tied to PCO investment or locked in other ways. So it gives us little flexibility to actually where we can find the money.”

A Home Office spokesperson said that, “We are dedicated to giving the police the resources they need to tackle crime, through record investment and recruiting 20,000 additional officers through the Police Uplift Programme.

“We also recognise the incredible role that police officers do. Last year we awarded an increase of £1,900 to all ranks and we are current considering the Police Remuneration Review Body’s recommendation for the 2023/24 pay award.”

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