Have police numbers dropped?


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New Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced plans to recruit an extra 20,000 police officers in England and Wales.

That would almost reverse the reduction in police numbers since the Conservatives came to power.

Between March 2010 and March 2018, police forces in England and Wales lost 21,732 officers – a drop of 15%, according to Home Office figures.

Police officers in England and Wales

Figures for 31 March each year

Annual figures which use March as a snapshot have been published for decades and those show that 2018 saw the lowest number of police officers since 1981.

Numbers of police community support officers (PCSOs), who patrol the streets, have fallen by nearly 40% during this period, from 16,688 in 2010 to 10,139 in 2018.

These cuts came as part of austerity measures brought in by the Conservative and coalition governments from 2010, in an attempt to reduce the deficit.

In the rest of the UK, policing is devolved.

In Scotland, there were 30% more police officers in March 2018 than there were in 1985 – and since 2010 numbers have remained more or less stable.

There has been a recent fall though, with numbers of police officers in the first three months of 2018 at the lowest level since 2009.

In Northern Ireland, there are fewer police officers than there were 20 years ago, but the fall has been much smaller than in England and Wales.

Overall police budgets, excluding counter-terrorism grants, fell by 20% between 2010 and 2015 when the overall policing budget was protected in real terms, although not every force was to benefit.

Last year, the government announced the biggest rise in funding to the police since 2010, of “up to” £970m more than the year before – some of which was pledged specifically to help recruit more police officers.

The figure is “up to” this amount because, while £452m comes directly from central government, the rest is based on police and crime commissioners (or in some places the mayor) choosing to raise more in council tax from their local populations.

This article was originally written in February 2019. It has been updated to reflect the latest figures on police numbers.

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