by Ray Fleming

As the severity of the coalition government's cuts to Britain's Armed Forces -- the Army in particular -- has become only too clear this week, so the reality of the economies demanded of the police forces is also emerging.

Figures released by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) show that 5'800 frontline officers are being cut across the 43 police authorities of England and Wales, an average of almost 150 in each. The overall loss including support services is much higher at 32'400 in what is already the smallest staff total in a decade. HMIC's Chief Inspector, Sir Dennis O'Connor, also warned that London's Metropolitan Police faces serious cuts that have been held back until after the Olympics which “may mean it cannot provide an effective service”.

When the budget cuts were first announced a year ago the Home Secretary, Theresa May, insisted that frontline services would not be seriously affected because the savings would come from civilian backroom staff and, of course, by “cutting red tape”. The official figures from HMIC and the Chief Inspector's comments on them do not bear out Mrs May's optimism. Meanwhile, she is pushing ahead with the plans for local elections for police commissioners in November, a controversial move especially at a time when safeguarding boots on the ground seems more important than creating an additional administrative and probably political management layer.

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