POLITICIANS, unions and community groups say they fear job cuts at Northumbria Police could affect front-line services.
Northumbria Police is facing making savings of £57million and the force’s police authority members have warned there is a further funding gap of £23million still to be met, which will see more reductions next year.
Today, people in Sunderland have voiced their concern at the scale of the cuts.
Sunderland Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator Doug Ridley said he fears the moves will shatter communities that have worked hard to get crime off their streets.
He said: “It is an absolutely devastating thing and we are going to see a lot more trouble on the streets if there’s going to be a decline in the number of police.
“There’s a tremendous amount of jobs being cut and I don’t see how this won’t have an effect.
“The Government will then expect people like me who has worked and volunteered all my life to give up more of my time for free.”
Despite the 12 per cent drop in the Northunbria Police budget, Temporary Chief Constable Sue Sim has pledged to keep the same number of bobbies on the beat across Wearside.
She said the move will have no effect on response teams answering emergency calls across the city.
She said: “My commitment is and remains that we will maintain, as far as we can, front-line services.
“That means there will be no changes in the number of response officers, emergency officers, neighbourhood officers or the detectives that help them.
“Community support officers will also be out there patrolling and there will be no reduction in numbers there.”
Mrs Sim said like many households across Sunderland, Northumbria Police is having to evaluate its budget and make changes essential to continue its fight against crime – but she said no police stations would close.
Mick Henry, chairman of Northsumbria Police Authority, echoed Mrs Sim’s pledge to protect patrols on the streets – but also criticised the Government for its role in the budget shake up.
He said: “The driving force here is that we are going to protect front-line policing.
“We are looking at a number of different business models at the moment and realise we will have to come up with new and different ways of working in the back office.
“The cuts are front-loaded so instead of being able to spread these costs out and reduce the number of job losses we have to rush in and make more.”
Mr Henry said cutting red tape and bureaucracy will help keep police patrolling the streets and a shake-up to the system will see officers able to pass on paperwork to civilian staff.
Bridget Phillipson, MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, said she was worried by the cuts. She said: “They will undermine the progress we have made in tackling crime and antisocial behaviour in our community, which I know remains a pressing issue for local people.
“I am certain Northumbria Police will do all they can to protect front-line policing, but the Tory-led Government has left the force with an impossible task.”
Northumbria Police Federation chairman Charles Munroe today hit out at the cuts – especially to civilian jobs – branding them “shocking”.
He said: “We had predicted around about the right number of police officers losing their jobs, but the support staff got a real hammering and I’m quite shocked at that.
“We are one of the best-performing forces in the UK and we do it on the smallest budget, but something has got to give.
“What that will be I just don’t know, we will have to wait and see, but we have got massive challenges ahead of us.”
Peter Chapman, of Unison, said he was “astonished” by the number of civilian staff to go. He said: “The question has to be asked how the force can be sustained with such a loss.”
Coun Tony Morrissey, leader of Sunderland Conservatives, said: “Everyone has had to make major cutbacks right across the board, but we have been reassured by Sue Sim that front-line policing will not be affected.
“What seems to have been the case over the last 10 to 12 years is the number of police who become stuck to their desks filling out a lot of paperwork.
“I know they are now trying to cut that out, which will help towards protecting frontline services.”
In total, Northumbria Police employs 4,145 police officers and 2,110 civilian staff.
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