The grim blue line - police slashed by a quarter

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Wigan has lost nearly a quarter of its police officers in the last decade, new figures reveal.

The number of bobbies in the borough has dropped from 478.2 in 2006 to 364 in 2015, a drop of 23.9 per cent, according to figures released under freedom of information laws.

In total, there are 114.2 fewer officers, 30.13 fewer other staff (a reduction of 32.7 per cent) and 12 fewer ranked officers (-13.9 per cent) based in Wigan than there were nine years ago.

Police budgets have been heavily hit by the Government since the recession and cuts have been widespread across the country.

However in Wigan the number of police community support officers has more than doubled, from 30 in 2006 to 67 in 2015.

Glenn Jones, Greater Manchester Police Temporary Chief Inspector in Wigan, said: “Greater Manchester Police is transforming the way it delivers policing to ensure it can respond to the changing nature of crime including the increase in cyber-crime.

“We remain committed to neighbourhood policing and to continuing to introduce integrated teams working alongside other public services. Wigan has been at the forefront of developing this work with the Platt Bridge integrated team demonstrating what can be achieved.

“The developments to neighbourhood policing are ensuring local officers have local ownership and will be working with you to find solutions. Our changes are putting more officers into local policing, making the best use of the officers that we have available.

“Officers are also being given smartphones and tablets that will help them remain out and about, and still be able to access key systems. Tackling crime is something we all have to do and we need local people to work with us and other public services to keep our communities safe.”

Across Greater Manchester, the number of officers has reduced 13.75 per cent with many divisions seeing a similar drop in numbers as Wigan.

Only in South Manchester has the number of officers risen, by 31.5 per cent, but this may be due to changes in the divisions and inclusion of Manchester Airport officers.

The reductions have mainly been made due to funding cuts from central government as part of the Tories austerity programme to reduce the country’s deficit.

But the cuts have drawn criticism from many, including Greater Manchester Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd, who attribute the reduction in police funding and the resulting reduction in staff to a rise in crime.

Mr Lloyd said: “Greater Manchester Police – including Wigan Division – has been hit severely by savage central government cuts.

“I have campaigned vigorously against this, urging the Home Secretary and Chancellor to drastically rethink their approach and reverse the damage being caused to our communities as a result.

“In the last budget, George Osborne appeared to heed these warnings, however his so called-plan to protect policing was not borne out in real terms and he gave us no financial certainty beyond this financial year.

“To make his sums add up I had no choice but to ask people to pay more for policing through their council tax.

“GMP has also been transforming the way it works. In Platt Bridge, Wigan, for example, police officers are co-located with people from health and social care services, working closely together to better support people with complex needs and reduce the demand placed on public services.

“Integrated working of this kind, together with more efficient ways of working enabled by technology such as body-worn video and mobile devices, means we can divert more vital funding to the frontline.

“Thanks to the contributions of local people through their council tax, careful management of the budget, and finding better, more efficient ways of working, I am pleased to say that we are now about to start recruiting new officers to the service for the first time in five years, and we’ll be making more detailed announcements on this very soon.”