Page last updated at 18:08 GMT, Thursday, 14 May 2009 19:08 UK

More officers 'at no extra cost'

Newly recruited police officers
The chief constable said getting more officers on the streets "was achievable"

The police service in England and Wales could recruit 20,000 extra officers within the next five years by making savings, according to a police chief.

Essex Chief Constable Roger Baker told a police conference if other forces followed his financial model they could recruit more officers at no extra cost.

In Essex, officer numbers increased by 10% since 2004 compared with a national average of less than 2%.

The increase has been achieved by cutting back on inessential costs.

Chief Constable Baker, who retires this summer as the head of Essex police, also criticised the staffing balance between officers and other police personnel.

He told the Police Federation annual conference in Bournemouth that the police service had "lost the plot" on getting the right staff mix and said that the service risked becoming "an army without soldiers".

Public demand

Mr Baker urged other forces to follow his lead in prioritising officer numbers.

He said: "If we apply this model, if Essex is mid-range, we could provide between 15,000 and 20,000 new police officers in the next three to five years without burdening the taxpayer of England and Wales.

Chief constables and police authorities decide on the most appropriate allocation of resources and workforce mix for their area
Jacqui Smith, Home Secretary

"This would put more police officers on our streets, making it safer for all of us.

"This is achievable if we want it to be and would be exactly what our public want."

He said that together the 43 forces in England and Wales could save more than £800 million.

Mr Baker said in Essex the force had cut costs by teaming up with other forces on large contracts and cutting back on inessential spending.

The chief constable said the force had already saved £50,000 per year by buying fuel from cheaper petrol stations and reducing office equipment.

He is also planning to cut spending on coffee, biscuits and refreshments, which currently costs the force £120,000 a year.

By 2013, Essex hopes to have 4,000 officers - about 1,000 more than in 2004.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said she would encourage other forces to follow the "innovative ways of cutting back on unessential spending".

She said: "Chief constables and police authorities decide on the most appropriate allocation of resources and workforce mix for their area."

She added: "The government grant for the police will have increased by over £3.7bn between 1997/98 and 2010/11 and there are now historically high numbers of police officers - since 1997 their number has increased by nearly 15,000."



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