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Police numbers fall as budgets slashed.

Byline: Darren Devine Reporter darren.devine@walesonline.co.uk

POLICE officer numbers in Wales have fallen by 2% compared with a year ago as forces grapple with budget cuts.

The cuts have been deepest in percentage terms in Gwent, where officer numbers have fallen by 3.4%, or 49, to 1,367.

North Wales was the only Welsh force to increase the number of officers in the year to last September. They have gone up by six to 1,472 - a rise of .4%.

Wales' largest force, South Wales, has seen the biggest reduction in man power in absolute terms, losing 72 officers to leave numbers at 2,809 - a drop of 2.5%.

In Dyfed-Powys numbers have reduced by 1.7%, with 19 fewer officers, leaving the overall figure at 1,101.

Last month UK Policing Minister Damian Green said all police forces in Wales will be getting less money, ranging from a 1.8% cut for South Wales to 2.1% for Dyfed-Powys - with overall funding falling from PS227.2m to PS223m.

Chair of Gwent Police Federation Jeff Mapps said his force has lost about 200 officers since the coalition began implementing its cuts agenda.

He said: "It's likely we'll lose more in the future. Clearly, the number of officers able to respond to calls for service from the public has been reduced and that has a knock-on effect on morale."

A spokesperson for Gwent Police said the cuts in numbers were not a surprise, given the backdrop of truncated budget.

"We will continue to have to make difficult decisions, but the public should be confident that any decisions taken will be done in the interest of protecting and reassuring the communities of Gwent," they said.

If police recorded crime figures are to be believed the cuts don't appear to be impacting on public safety.

Crime fell by 5% in Wales in the 12 months to last September, according to figures released last week.

North Wales saw the largest overall drop with the figures falling by 12%, followed by Dyfed-Powys on 10% and South Wales on 2%. Gwent's figures were static with no change. However, the figures were stripped of an official "gold standard" mark by the statistics watchdog amid mounting concern they were being "fiddled" by police.

Matt Jukes, Deputy Chief Constable of South Wales Police, said his forced is committed to protecting the front line, improving processes and investing in technology.

He said: "This has not been easy and there are real challenges ahead, especially as we remain one of the busiest forces in the UK.

"Victim satisfaction is also better today than it has been in a generation, while recorded crime is at a 30-year low. This is testament to the commitment of our staff and all those who work with them, in other organisations and in the community."

Dyfed-Powys Crime Commissioner Christopher Salmon said: "Frontline policing remains a priority and over the next 18 months 30 brand new posts will be created. Police community support officers will be maintained as well."

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 31, 2014
Words:522
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