Photo: Reuters/Andrew Boyers

The Home Affairs Committee has urged the Government to prioritise policing in the Autumn Budget and the next Comprehensive Spending Review, warning that without additional funding for policing, there will be dire consequences for public safety and criminal justice.

In a report, ‘Policing for the Future’, which has been taking evidence on the changing demands of policing, the committee found that forces are struggling to cope in the face of changing and rising crimes, as a result of falling staff numbers, outdated technology, capabilities, structures, fragmentation and a failure of Home Office leadership.

It recommended major changes to the police response to new and growing crimes and warned that the Home Office could not continue to stand back while police forces struggle.

Yvette Cooper MP, the chair of the committee, said: “Police officers across the country are performing a remarkable public service in increasingly difficult circumstances, but forces are badly overstretched. Crime is up, charges and arrests are down, and the police service is struggling to respond effectively to emerging and growing challenges, such as online fraud and online child abuse.”

New data gathered by the committee shows neighbourhood policing has been cut by over 20 percent since 2010, and some forces have lost more than two thirds of their neighbourhood officers. Meanwhile, recorded crime was up 32 percent in 3 years – including steep rises in robbery, theft and vehicle crime – but charges and summons were down 26 percent, and police forces are overstretched.

The committee warned that the service risks a serious decrease in public safety and in confidence in the police and the wider justice system if these trends are not reversed.

“Neighbourhood policing lies at the heart of British policing, and it has reached an unacceptable state,” commented Stephen Doughty MP, a Labour Member of the Committee.

“While capacity varies across forces in England and Wales, overall we found that they have lost at least a fifth of their neighbourhood policing capacity since 2010. Once those crucial local relationships are lost, it is very difficult to rebuild them, and they are vital to so many areas of policing, from counter-terrorism to serious organised crime.”

Responding to the report, James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), said: “The Home Affairs Committee report highlights the significant pressures that police forces are under to deal with the rising levels of crime. Convenience stores are an all-too frequent target for robberies, theft, verbal abuse, ram raids and attacks on retailers and staff.

“We need a collaborative approach to ensure that crimes are being dealt with properly rather than being ‘screened out’ or ignored. This means beat police officers, neighbourhood policing teams, police and crime commissioners, the courts and rehabilitation programmes all playing their part. Retailers are investing record amounts in crime prevention measures, but they must be supported by the police and the justice system.”

Research conducted by ACS earlier this year showed that 82 percent of retailers are concerned about the consistency of the response from police, with 73 percent dissatisfied with the time taken for the police to respond to incidents.