“Fresh cuts will leave largest forces in England and Wales with [police] officer numbers last seen in the 1970s

“Three of Britain’s most senior chief constables have warned of a fresh crisis in policing after the government squeezed budgets even further, which they say will leave no alternative but to cut the number of officers.

In an unprecedented public warning, the chief constables of the West Midlands, Greater Manchester and Merseyside forces told the Guardian the fresh cuts would leave them with officer numbers last seen in the 1970s.

Since 2010 the government has cut police funding by 19%. Police in England and Wales have now been told that a £420m pensions shortfall must be met from their already reduced budgets.

After recalculating officers’ pension liabilities, the Treasury decided forces needed to contribute more. Forces are now coming to terms with the impact of the further budget squeeze and anger is mounting.

Ian Hopkins, the chief constable of Greater Manchester, the third biggest force, said he had hoped to have 6,300 officers by the end of March 2021; instead he is likely to have 5,709 – fewer than the force’s 1975 total.

Hopkins told the Guardian: “Clearly we would always look to save money without job cuts, but the reality is 83% of our budget is people and after eight years of efficiencies across all parts of the organisation – which has seen us make reductions of £183m – there would be little alternative but to cut posts, both officers and staff.”

He said he feared the new funding squeeze would reduce his force. “This would just get worse as we would have to further prioritise against threat, harm and risk, screen out more and more crime. Essentially we would just have to focus on providing a response function, a serious and organised crime capability and a custody function as the core capabilities of policing.”…