UPDATED FRIDAY 09:09*
A DRASTIC warning about the future of policing has been issued by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Police and Crime Commissioner — "There will come a time when reduced policing in our communities will reach dangerous levels."
Simon Hayes made the warning as he announced a proposal to raise the police council tax precept by 3 per cent, partly to address cuts in government funding.
It would be the equivalent of an additional £4.54 a year, or 9p a week, for Band D properties, bringing the total to £155.79 per year
He said: "These are very, very difficult times for policing in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. It would be wrong of me not to tell the public the truth about the impact of government cuts.
"Our police service has been praised by government as a well performing and well run service, yet ministers are again cutting the money for policing in our communities. This time by £25m, which equates to approximately 555 police officers.
"It is getting more difficult to keep up the level of neighbourhood policing people want and, quite frankly, should expect. There will come a time when reduced policing in our communities will reach dangerous levels.
"We are not there yet, but my message to the Home Secretary, MPs and the Prime Minister is, you are risking public safety and offering the upper hand to criminals if you continue with your policy of undermining the good policing that is going on across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight."
He has appealed for residents to have their say on the proposed rise, by taking part in an online survey.
"I believe that we must maintain a safe level of neighbourhood policing, including PCSOs on our streets, and this is why I am left with no option but to propose a precept increase. But I want to hear the public's view on this. Our short online survey is an easy and
simple way to let me know whether you agree with this proposal or not," he said.
The survey is available through the Commissioner’s website www.hampshire-pcc.gov.uk
and Twitter account and Facebook page, and will be sent out to as many stakeholders as possible.
It will close on January 22 and the results considered by the Police and Crime Panel, which will be debate the proposal on January 24.
Hampshire Police Federation chairman John Apter said: "The cuts to the policing budget have been disproportionate compared to other areas of the public sector.
"We have reached a tipping point where it is now difficult to sustain policing to an acceptable level.
"We have already changed the way we work, closed police stations and reduced the number of police officers and police staff by significant amount, these have been decisions which a few years ago would have been unthinkable.
"The public deserve the best possible police service, and this proposed increase is a lifeline which will assist us to keep hold of some of those essential areas of policing which people take for granted. I would therefore urge the public to support the PCC's plan."