Repairing damage of police cuts ‘could take years’

Cutbacks and under-funding in policing had a huge impact on officers and the fall-out is still being felt today, according to Dyfed Powys Police Federation.

Acting branch secretary Ceris Davies spoke out after a new His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) report into police performance found officers were increasingly under-resourced and under-skilled, with forces not doing enough to understand why such a large proportion of its workforce are leaving and having any plans in place to tackle it.

The report found members of the public were suffering as a result with too many people being failed at the first point of contact.

Ceris said: “We accept that policing is facing some enormous challenges but the problems of today can be traced back to the start of the cuts to funding and resources the service has been subjected to over the last 13 years.

“Our members always try to provide the very best service they can to the people of this region and do so with great professionalism and determination.

“But there is no doubt their role has changed over the years and a lot of that change has been driven by cuts to funding and resourcing and the inevitable departure of many experienced officers.

“This means public expectations are sometimes not realistic and that has led to something of a breakdown in confidence and trust which could take many years to restore.

“Officer numbers are back to 2010 levels now thanks to the Police Uplift Programme but the reality is we still need more officers to be able to deliver services the public expects.”

Ceris said years of real-terms pay cuts had affected officer morale and left members feeling undervalued.

“Pay has been a massive issue for many years now but really came into focus after the pandemic when our members risked life and limb on the front line and were then rewarded with a pay freeze the following year,” she said.

“That spoke volumes about the regard in which policing is held by the Government and it is high time our members were properly rewarded and recognised for the difficult jobs they do.”

Dyfed Powys Police Federation has responded to a report from HMICFRS

Ceris’ comments came in response to a report from an HMICFRS report on police performance which brings together significant findings from the 2021/22 police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy (PEEL) inspection programme.

The report highlighted police forces’ progress in recording crime, increasing from an estimated 80.5 per cent of all crime being recorded (excluding fraud) in 2014 to 92.4 per cent at the end of 2021/2022 inspections.

It found: 

  • Too many forces make decisions based on poor data or insufficient analysis of data;
  • Forces too often have knee jerk reactions to long term problems and don’t work proactively enough to prevent issues arising in the first place;
  • First-line supervisors are critical to improving performance and developing the right culture in forces, but they are not getting the investment and support they need;
  • The public is too often being failed at the first point of contact, with long call delays, in particular non-emergency 101 calls; and
  • The workforce is increasingly under-resourced and under-skilled, with forces not doing enough to understand why such a large proportion of its workforce are leaving and having any plans in place to tackle it.

Andy Cooke, His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, said: “We found a wealth of examples where police forces are performing well. Forces must learn from each other and should consider if the positive practice described in this report can be applied in their own area.

“But the public are still being let down too often by policing, and there are several improvements that forces need to make. One of the first things forces need to do is to get better at understanding and managing their own performance. Without this, forces cannot aspire to provide the high level of service that the public deserves.

“The public’s trust and confidence in the police are at an all-time low, so it is vital that forces take heed of our findings and work quickly to rectify the issues highlighted.”

Tiff Lynch, deputy chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), said: “There is a common thread throughout this report that links the red flags PFEW have been highlighting repeatedly – a severe lack of funding leaving police forces up and down England and Wales struggling with demand, and officer levels. This is further leading forces to use outdated, cumbersome, and poorly understood systems and processes.

“If our members are to give the public the service they deserve, then long-term, sustained investment in policing must be the Government’s top priority.

“Only proper investment in the service will allow all the service to implement the procedures and training that are vital to improving policing and regaining public confidence and trust

“This report rightly adds more pressure on the Government to take urgent action, invest in policing, improve police pay and officer morale, and restore policing to the respected and trusted public service it should be.”