South Yorkshire Police is approaching a ‘tipping point’ in its ability to deliver an effective service as cuts bite, Sheffield’s district commander has warned.
Chief Supt David Hartley said the force is on course to deliver savings of more than £42m by 2016 – but warned any further Government cuts may have a major impact. About £23m worth of savings have already been delivered.
Since April 2012, police officer numbers have been cut by the equivalent of 77 full-time posts, and there has been a reduction of more than 275 back room staff, although the number of community support officers has increased from 290 to 324.
More jobs are set to go, with a review of how local policing is structured due to be completed in the next few months.
Mr Hartley said: “It would be naive to say there won’t come a tipping point where the service we offer will not be to the standards expected by the public.”
He added: “You can only use creativity, innovation and partnership so far. If you cut and cut and cut, then ultimately there will be an adverse impact.
“I don’t think we are at that point yet, but it is close. We are under real pressure.”
There was little scope for further savings by cutting the number of force buildings, given the cuts already made in this area.
“We have already gone through that. The police estate is a shadow of what it was three, four, five years ago. Many of the savings realised so far have come from the estate – there isn’t a great deal more capacity we can cut down.”
A spokesman for Shaun Wright, South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner, said: “While it will undoubtedly be tough to make further savings, we hope we will be able to do so in such a way it has as little an impact as possible on frontline policing.
“We acknowledge we are going to have to lose police officers and staff. However, the overall number of posts we will have to cut has not yet been identified and we will always strive to make budget reductions elsewhere before considering reducing our staffing levels.”
Mr Hartley was speaking after the screening of a TV documentary showed officers in Sheffield trying to reduce burglary and vehicle crime while dealing with the impact of budget cuts.