After details of job losses at Hampshire County Council had emerged this morning, Labour MP Chris Bryant cited leaked documents to suggest that redundancy was also a spectre haunting the constabularies of South Wales at today’s Prime Minister’s Questions.
In response to his challenge to protect the 1,000 jobs that Mr Bryant claimed were for the axe, David Cameron argued that front line policing was safe under his Government, despite reductions in the policing budget.
Citing an HMIC report, he said: “Her Majesty’s Inspectorate [of Constabulary] said it is possible to achieve those reductions without losing front line officers.”
Regular Full fact readers will know that the issue is actually more complicated than this might suggest.
When we picked over the smallprint of the HMIC report to which the Prime Minister was referring – Sustaining Value For Money In The Police Service – we found that the savings that were identified actually implied a significant number of job losses.
The report notes that in many cases forces will have to choose between pocketing cash savings and protecting jobs. For example, it notes that: “If all forces above the median [in terms of police staff working in CID and back-office roles] replaced police officers with staff, they could make choices between nearly £150 million of savings and redeploying 2,700 uniformed officers. If they went further and achieved the performance of the lowest quartile, they could chose between around £270 million of savings and nearly 5,000 uniformed police officer posts.”
An HMIC spokesperson confirmed to us that, although police officers cannot be made redundant, their calculations worked on the assumption that there would be a great deal of “natural wastage”: the number of jobs available in each force would go down.
Whilst Ministers have hitherto been careful to argue that this does not necessarily mean a reduction in the level of front line service – HMIC’s own conclusion – the sort of statement made by Mr Cameron is not supported by the HMIC analysis.