More paperwork for fewer police

FEARS for the district's crime rates have been raised in the wake of revelations of dramatic cuts to West Yorkshire's police officer numbers.

Calderdale Councillor Tim Swift (Town, Labour) has received a letter from Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison predicting as many as 500 police officer jobs and 1,000 civilian support roles could be lost over the next four years because of Government spending plans.

After natural wastage, he estimates it will mean 300 forced redundancies for police staff over the next two years.

Coun Swift, who received the letter after asking the Chief Constable for information about what the spending cuts will mean, said he was concerned that even if the reductions were focused on back office staff jobs, their work would still need to be done and could be landed on police officers, reducing the time they had available to be out on the streets.

"It's going to be very difficult for the police to be able to keep responding to what the public expect," he said.

He said compared to other parts of West Yorkshire, Calderdale is a relatively low-crime area but one of the reasons for that is the resources that are currently available.

According to the letter, the force has had a recruitment freeze in place since the summer of 2010 and it will not be recruiting in 2011.

The chief constable says he and the police authority are committed to maintaining, as far as possible, local policing services.

Last month Sir Norman revealed he expects the force to have 1,500 to 2,000 fewer employees in four years.

He did not rule out forcing some officers who have served beyond their 30 years' pensionable service to retire.

A spokesman for West Yorkshire Police said: "The commitment remains focused on providing local policing services, through both neighbourhood policing teams and our response officers."