Tough times ahead for South Yorkshire police warns chief constable

SOUTH Yorkshire’s top police officer has admitted that hopes of maintaining currently policing levels would be “unrealistic” in the face of huge Government spending cuts.

In a report to be presented to police authority members today, Chief Constable Med Hughes says that the force would see “radical changes” in the next few years.

He said that the force will lose around 1,100 staff over four years but insisted that the priority would remain providing efficient response times.

According to Mr Hughes’s report, the “challenges” include maintaining “unprecedented” levels of crime reduction and the potential for social unrest and disorder.

Mr Hughes said that the force would still be a “balanced force providing the full range of policing services to the people of South Yorkshire, worthy of their confidence and delivering their priorities.”

One of the main areas to see staff reductions is neighbourhood policing, while staff in educational establishments and working with community partners will also be cut.

A reduction in back office support would also put an “increased burden” on frontline officers.

One way the authority hopes to bump up efficiency is through new technology.

By 2012, nearly 3,000 officers will be trained in how to access mobile information —— 1,000 more than are already up to speed.

As well as internal cuts, the report outlines possible external effects to policing including local authorities reducing their Youth Service budgets, which Mr Hughes said, could cause a rise in youth crime levels.

Increased unemployment is also identified as a possible cause of increased trouble..

Mr Hughes adds in his report: “There is a likelihood that we will see an increased number of demonstrations in the years ahead as the levels and the impact of the cuts are more keenly felt.

“The policing of those demonstrations, even when peaceful, can be very resource intensive and will abstract away from their duties.”

Mr Hughes said the force had a good record in hitting goals but that keeping it up would be difficult.

“We have delivered every one of our crime targets and done so for the past few years,”

But he warns: “The problem will be maintaining that.”