Police jobs cut by half in Wigan communities

Police cuts
Police cuts

The number of bobbies on the beat in the borough has more than halved in the past five years, it has been revealed.

Figures uncovered in a special investigation show Greater Manchester Police has seen a 52 per cent drop in neighbourhood officers and police community support officers (PCSOs) between 2012 and 2017 - the equivalent of 1,146 full-time employees.

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But the force has disputed this, saying there have been changes to the way the data is recorded and there are actually more local officers.

The report, published by the BBC Local News Partnership, stated Greater Manchester had 1,180 fewer officers overall in 2017, a 15 per cent drop.

Neighbourhood policing had been particularly badly hit, with 883.88 fewer neighbourhood officers - 62 per cent less than in 2012 - and 262.56 PCSOs, a 33 per cent drop.

This means it has 0.38 neighbourhood officers and PCSOs for every 1,000 people, ranking it 24th in the 45 police forces.

But the force says the number of local police officers has actually increased, by 10 per cent from 2,675 in 2016 to 2,961 in 2017.

The Police Federation chairman Steve White warned the bobby on the beat was under serious threat from financial cuts in 2015, but was told by then Home Secretary Theresa May to stop “crying wolf”.

Leigh MP Jo Platt questioned Home Secretary Amber Rudd over the reduction in officer numbers last month.

She said the cuts, which have been implemented since 2010, were putting communities, including those in the borough, at risk.

Greater Manchester’s Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime Beverley Hughes has reiterated the need for more police funding.

She said: “Inadequate funding continues to make it very difficult to maintain neighbourhood policing and allow our police officers to build the relationships with our communities that we know make a real difference.

“Pressures on the police are increasing and resources remain under great strain. I am working closely with the Mayor, Chief Constable, local authorities and our communities to make sure we are doing all we can to build safer and stronger communities in Greater Manchester.”

Wigan has seen the closure of many of its police stations over the years, with the front counter at Leigh shutting last year.

Residents have long complained of seeing fewer police officers and PCSOs on streets around the borough.

Adam Eastwood set up a Facebook group named Catch The Criminals - Lowton and Golborne, after someone tried to get into his home.

He said: “Obviously the more people can see the police, the better it is. Police even walking around at night does cut the crime rate, because they can spot people.

“It’s well-known that there aren’t enough police on the streets.

“How many times do you drive to work and see a police car? The more police that are around, the better.”

Police took to Facebook to thank Hawkley Hall residents who detained two would-be thieves trying to break into cars in Hawkley Hall in November.

The report found almost 11,000 police officer jobs were axed across England and Wales, with hundreds of those in Greater Manchester.

Dep Ch Con Ian Pilling (right) said: “GMP has lost 2,000 officers across the force – a quarter of our total strength from seven years ago.

“Whilst we remain absolutely committed to neighbourhood policing, this reduction in numbers means that we do not have the resources to deal with issues in the way we used to.

“We are working hard with partners to give the best service we can across Wigan and the whole of GMP and I am grateful for the public support our officers receive every day.”

A police spokesman said the Home Office provided a caveat with the data that some forces were not able to make a distinction between certain functions and therefore record the majority of employees under one function. This was particularly apparent for the neighbourhood policing function.

It was also highlighted that there were collaborations between forces and data could be affected by restructuring.

A Home Office spokesman said: “The independent Office For National Statistics is clear that overall traditional crime is continuing to fall and is now down by almost 40 per cent since 2010, while fraud and computer misuse - the most commonly experienced crime - has reduced by 15 per cent in the past year.

“We know the nature of crime is changing and we’ve spoken to every police force in the country to understand the demands they are facing.

“In December, we set out a comprehensive settlement to strengthen local and national policing, which will mean police funding will increase by up to £450m next year.

“We are clear that effective local policing needs to be about more than just visibility in isolation. With crime increasingly taking place behind closed doors and online, it is also about safeguarding vulnerable groups or individuals and giving the police the powers they need to deal with emerging and hidden crimes.”