More cuts feared as police lose 650 jobs in ‘alliance’ between Warwickshire and West Mercia

WARWICKSHIRE’s police force is being “systematically destroyed” by a lack of funding, the chairman of its union has warned.

Simon Payne, chairman of the county’s police federation, was responding to the decision we reported last week by Warwickshire and West Mercia constabularies to form an alliance - which will result in the loss of around 650 jobs across the two forces.

Mr Payne, a serving police officer himself, said: “These are the realities of the spending cuts that are currently taking place. We have got no alternative.

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“Chief officers are taking responsibility in very difficult times and policing is very underfunded.”

He added: “The greatest fear I have is what is to come with the next round of spending cuts.

“It’s a simple equation: the fewer police officers we have, the more crime we have.

“Warwickshire and the other 42 forces in England and Wales make up the finest police service in the world, which is being systematically destroyed by a lack of funding.”

Mr Payne believes that it is vital that people use the police commissioner elections, which are due to take place across the country in November, to let the Government know how important the police service is to them.

He said: “Hopefully, the public will give out a clear statement as to what their views on police funding are.”

James Plaskitt, former Labour MP for Leamington and Warwick, is standing in the elections for Warwickshire’s police commissioner.

Reacting to the news about the alliance last week, he said if he were elected, he would order a review into the proposed job losses – of which he believes 200 will go from Warwickshire’s force – on his first day of office.

Mr Plaskitt said he supports the idea of the alliance, but added: “Warwickshire has already seen large reductions in officer numbers and the force is struggling to meet the public’s expectations as a result.

“I am concerned that an alliance which is designed to improve performance now contains plans for even more cuts in police officer numbers.”

Fraser Pithie, Conservative candidate for the commissioning role, also supports the idea of the alliance, but he said: “The intention is not for the forces to merge and I don’t support that as an end result. It’s about how two forces can pull together and save money.”

Mr Pithie said the job losses are “regrettable”, adding: “I am sorry for the individuals who are losing their jobs.

“But I also have to be mindful of all the families across Warwickshire who are running out of money. They simply don’t have more to give to the police precept of their council tax.

“I do not believe necessarily that policing will suffer. Like with any business, it’s about making the best use of every penny we have got.”

Warwickshire and West Mercia’s forces are aiming to make combined savings of £30 million by 2016.

Although the forces will continue to be led by their own chief constables, the alliance will mean they will work together on managing services and budgeting.