Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) on Tuesday (20 October) warned that police officers would become "less visible" on the streets of Britain, with the forces facing government cuts of £1.9bn and job losses over the next five years. The safety of the public too is at risk, with one in five forces out of the total 43 in England and Wales failing to manage their budgets.
"Policing in five years' time is likely to look different to now: smaller, less costly and perhaps less visible. Maintaining visible neighbourhood policing, rather than becoming a mainly reactive service, is likely to be a challenge - and the public will need reassurance if policing becomes less visible," the HMIC report said, according to The Telegraph.
The report said the number of forces in need of improvement has reached eight compared three last year. Five forces were rated "outstanding", while Humberside was the only force rated "inadequate". Besides, since 2010, the police have gone through change on an "unprecedented scale" that saw budgets falling by £2.3bn and staff loss of 37,000, which included a shortage of 16,900 officers, it said.
While the Home Office is to propose a budget for the police force, which could save the department up to 40% on its finances, forces will still lose 7,400 officers, 1,300 community support officers and 3,500 civilian staff ahead of Chancellor George Osborne's Comprehensive Spending Review.
A poll of 26,000 people, conducted by Ipsos Mori as part of HMIC's research, found that three in 10 people felt the presence of uniformed officers in their area had fallen, while 7% felt there was an improvement.
The report also found that the two main budget failures of the police force were lack of planning for future staffing needs and wasteful, inefficient computer systems and other IT projects. Sir Thomas Winsor, the head of HMIC, said the failure to bring in new technology was due to the lack of negotiation skills of the police chiefs. He also accused them of failing to tackle the IT problems facing the police forces in England and Wales.
"They need to raise their game considerably to meet the needs and risks of the future. There is a fear of the private sector on the part of senior officers when they are procuring kit because there's a significant lack of commercial skills at the head of the police service," Sir Thomas said.