Greater Manchester has lost hundreds of frontline police officers over the last four years, figures reveal – among the most significant cuts in England and Wales.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has endorsed proposals to spend £1 billion over the next three years to recruit an extra 20,000 officers nationwide. But the body representing the rank-and-file warns funding cuts have already caused “irreparable damage” to the force with staff stretched to breaking point.
The latest Home Office data shows Greater Manchester Police had 5,217 officers in frontline policing roles in March, 574 fewer than when comparable records began in March 2015.
This means the number of frontline officers fell by 10 per cent over the period.
The figures also show that 89 per cent of officers in Greater Manchester Police work in frontline roles – across England and Wales, the rate is 92 per cent.
A further 315 officers are in related support roles and 330 in business support.
In March, 103,000 frontline officers were employed across 43 police forces in England and Wales.
The number of frontline officers has fallen year-on-year since 2015 – there are now nearly 7,700 fewer pairs of boots on the ground than four years ago.
But, last year, the total number of officers in England and Wales rose slightly, by 766 full-time employees.
The union representing police constables, the Police Federation of England and Wales, called the increase “a fraction of what we have lost”.
The federation’s head, John Apter, said a loss of experienced officers resulted in “irreparable damage” at the public’s expense.
He added: “When there are simply not enough boots on the ground the whole service begins to crack under the pressure – forces unable to answer 999 calls, chiefs making some really tough choices on prioritising what they can and cannot do anymore and officers’ mental health often suffering as a result of all this demand.”
Mr Apter welcomed Mr Johnson’s pledge for 20,000 more officers, but warned this will not be “a quick fix”.
Giles York of the National Police Chiefs’ Council said forces were facing “significant financial constraints” amid rising crime.
He added: “Some chief constables have already made it clear that police can only prioritise their resources against the greatest harm.
“Police chiefs have been making the case for more investment in policing and we will continue to work with police and crime commissioners and the Home Office in the run up to the next government spending review.”
A Home Office spokesman said the figures show “encouraging signs of growth” for overall officer numbers.
He added: “We recognise the demands that our police face, which is why we are increasing funding by more than £1 billion this year, including council tax and money to tackle serious violence.
“As a result, police and crime commissioners have already announced plans to recruit more than 3,000 additional police officers, and more than 700 additional police staff and community support officers next year.”