Retailers have breathed a sigh of relief that policing budgets will not be cut any deeper, with many store owners claiming that they are already suffering from poor police response times and damaging levels of shoplifting.
Commenting on the news announced in the Chancellor’s Spending Review and Autumn Statement, Sussex Budgens retailer David Knight said: “It is great that the police won’t be cut any further, but it would seem the damage has already been done. Long gone are the days of community police who patrolled locally.
“Two weeks ago a shoplifter stole £200-worth of stock. The incident was reported to the police, but they took four days to deal with it. If shoplifters are caught they are given a fixed fine and no further action is taken, which doesn’t act as a deterrent and doesn’t bring back the stolen stock, which is often higher in value than the fixed fine value,” he added.
Police Federation chairman Steve White echoed David’s sentiment: “To have cut the police further at this time would have been utter madness. This is good news, but it doesn’t mean that the problems have vanished overnight. Officers are still under pressure and many forces still have the final tranche of savings from the last set of cuts to find.”
The Federation claimed that police numbers have fallen by 17,000 since 2010 and that officers are routinely “pulled away from neighbourhood policing teams to deal with 24/7 emergency calls.”
Spar retailer Mark Canniford of Weston-super-Mare in Somerset said the pressure of past cuts meant that local policing in his area ran “hot and cold”, while shoplifting was becoming “horrendous”. “Sometimes they respond well, sometimes appallingly. Shoplifting, however, is day to day now and multiple times a day, and those are the ones we are catching. The people stealing today just don’t care if they are caught. There’s no deterrent and no punishment.”
A positive move
“We have a few issues with theft, mostly alcohol or confectionery. I think the police felt the effects of cuts last time around, but the news that they will not suffer further cuts is good for communities and businesses.”
Amit Patel, Belvedere Food and Wine, Kent
“I haven’t noticed an increase in shoplifting, but when we have had rare incidents the police have not been helpful. Recently they’ve let me down.”
Jatinder Sahota, Londis Isle of Sheppey, Kent
Protecting the police budget
The government will protect overall police spending in line with inflation - an increase of £900m by 2019-20, the Spending Review revealed.
Some £1bn will also be spent on 4G communications for police forces and other emergency services, allowing officers to take mobile fingerprints and electronic witness statements. This will free up officers’ time, saving about £1m a day when fully operational, the government said.
Four years of cuts have resulted in the loss of almost 17,000 officers in England and Wales, and an almost equal number of support staff.