West Midlands Police has shed 2,221 police officers since 2010 and – despite a current national uplift which will see 1,200 returned to the force – still stands to be more than 1,000 officers short from start of the last decade.
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster has called for funding to allow the officers to be returned, as the shortfall has meant “less justice, safety and security” for residents.
Mr Foster said: “The campaign is all about the fact that since 2010 and up until 2019 we were defunded by £175 million in terms of West Midlands Police.
“The consequences of that are that we lost 2,221 of our police officers in the West Midlands. That was 25 per cent of our police officers – one in four of our police officers went in that decade.
“We lost many hundreds of essential police staff we lost 300 police community support officers and in terms of community policing for example back in 2010 we had about 1,800 police officers allocated to community policing.
“By 2018 we only had about 700. We lost over 50 per cent of the police officers allocated to community policing. I think that was a big mistake.
“I think that was counter productive, a false economy and I think we have all been paying the price with less justice, safety and security for the people and communities of the West Midlands.
“What I would say is that let’s not be kidded that the national police uplift that we are going to be getting between 2020 and 2023 in the West Midlands is going to make up for that because we’re only going to be getting back 1,200 of the 2,221 police officers we lost in the West Midlands.
“So that’s welcome but it’s not a good deal for the West Midlands and it’s plain that there is no levelling up in the West Midlands when it comes to our police officers.”
He said the impact had been “stark” and added: “Go anywhere around the West Midlands and it’s a constant refrain you will hear from people – ‘we don’t see police officers out on the streets, out on the beat any more’.”
He was critical of Government’s police allocation formula, which uses data such as population density and is intended to share money between forces based on their relative needs compared to each other.
He said: “I’ve made it very clear throughout my campaign that I want to fight for fair funding in the West Midlands.
“We have a funding formula that disproportionately disadvantages the West Midlands. In addition to the fact we had £175 million worth of cuts imposed on us in terms of West Midlands Police, we also have a fundamentally unfair funding formula.
“Increasingly we have had to pay more local council tax to see less local policing.
“For example, we don’t get funded equivalent to similar forces – for example, Greater Manchester Police ends up with £22.2 million additional funding to that of us in the West Midlands.”
Also speaking at a campaign launch event in Victoria Square was Cllr Nicky Brennan (Lab, Sparkhill), recently-appointed Victims’ Commissioner.
She spoke about the impact of the loss of officers on victims including victims of domestic abuse.
The force has recently seen a huge spike in cases, with a 39 per cent rise in reported cases in the last year.
She said: “It’s important the officers are made up because we need to have better outcomes for victims.
“At the moment, a lot of victims are being failed because we don’t have the officer capacity to deal with the levels of crime – especially things like domestic abuse and rape cases and getting the evidence recorded so they can get proper convictions.
“I think we can say all victims of crime [have been affected by the loss of officers] because with less officers it’s harder to prevent crime so there will be more crime happening.
“But when a crime has happened you need officers there to take evidence, to liaise with the victims and to make sure we can progress to get convictions forward.”
She said women suffering from domestic abuse are not getting interviews and are not seeing evidence recorded properly, which results in poor conviction rates.
She said: “This means victims are being failed.”
A Home Office spokesperson disputed Mr Foster’s statement and said: “These claims are entirely misleading. West Midlands Police’s officer workforce is growing and the force has already recruited an extra 740 officers through the police uplift programme.
“This is on top of local recruitment, which we support via the police funding settlement. In this year’s settlement, West Midlands are receiving up to £655.5m this year, an increase of up to £35.1m on last year.
“We are also giving PCCs an additional £415m this year to support our campaign to put 20,000 extra officers on the streets by March 2023.”
But Mr Foster disagreed and doubled down on his argument the force would be missing 1,000 officers compared to its position in 2010.
He said: “Sadly, the Home Office are in denial. Successive Governments since 2010 have cut 2,221 of our police officers in the West Midlands.
“At best, by 2023 we will have 1,200 to replace them. That is welcome, but it is not a good deal for the West Midlands. We are being short changed. We will be 1,000 police officers down.
“There is no levelling up when it comes to our police officers. We want all of our 2,221 police officers back.”