Police forces can save £1bn without reducing the number of police officers on the street, according to a joint report from three watchdogs.
Increased local scrutiny, the use of more civilian staff, collaboration and better procurement are amongst the suggestions put forward by the Audit Commission, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and the Wales Audit Office to support their call for a 12% spending cut.
The report advises against forces in England and Wales making cuts above that proportion because it would lead to their being fewer police on the street.
Audit Commission chair Michael O’Higgins said: “Police forces will need strong leadership from politicians, police authorities and chief constables if they are to save money without reducing service to the public.
“Better value for money in policing will be a challenge, but it is possible. Many police forces have shown how to save money and actually improve performance while maintaining public confidence - some have even done this with fewer police officers.
“And greater local scrutiny of police spending should help the higher spending forces.”
In response, the chair of the Association of Police Authorities, Rob Garnham (Con), pointed out that the police had “delivered financial efficiencies year on year, despite distractions of centrally imposed targets”.
He also called for the government to rethink its proposal to abolish police authorities and let them get on with the job. Police authorities were devoting “all their efforts and commitment” to meeting these challenges outlined in the report, he added. “Further distractions provided by proposed radical changes to police accountability only increase the risks of not achieving the aims highlighted by these reports,” he warned.