By Max Clarke

Budget cuts across UK police forces could be managed without serious detriment to frontline police presence by increasing efficiency, a leading think tank has said.

Thousands of back office roles are being filled by expensively trained and more highly paid ‘sworn officers’ instead of by civilian staff, leading to a staggering loss of £500 million from UK police budgets, the centre-right Policy Exchange organisation has revealed in their latest publication, The real cost of cops.

“Since 2001 police funding has surged by a quarter in real terms but this investment has not transformed police performance. Costs have risen and detection rates have stagnated. Huge sums have been swallowed up by an inefficient and inflexible organization,” said Policy Exchange’s Head of Crime and Justice, Blain Gibbs.

Plans by the coalition government to reduce policy funding attracted stiff opposition and criticism, particularly in light of last month’s violent disorder that razed shops and businesses across the UK. But the think tank argue that by instigating a number of changes, the effectiveness of the UK’s police can be enhanced whilst simultaneously shaving their budgets.

Public sector union, UNISON, responded to the think-tank’s findings, arguing that as ‘sworn’ police officers cannot legaslly be made redundant, civilians have been cut, forcing the officers to adopt roles formerly occupied by civilian staff.

“As police officers cannot be made redundant, cuts are falling disproportionately onto staff. Their vital jobs do not disappear, so officers are being taken off the beat, to keep this crucial behind the scenes work going,” explains Ben Priestley, UNISON national officer for police and justice.

Recommended changes include police wearing their uniforms to and from work, instead of changing at the station, so that their presence is more visible over a wider area, and even single-officer patrols. Policy Exchange also recommends implementing a single, unified fitness test- much like the fire brigade- in order to better monitor health levels and cut down on sickness leave.

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