COMMENT: A debate is needed over how forces are funded

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When it comes to police funding cuts, Hampshire Police Federation chairman John Apter doesn’t mince his words.

Policing in Hampshire is already in ‘crisis’, he says.

The county force has lost £80m in funding in recent years, along with 21 per cent of its officers.

If the government funding formula is changed, he says, it could lose tens of millions of pounds more – equivalent to another 450 officers going. That, according to Mr Apter, would be ‘devastating’.

And what of the people he represents, those who wear the uniform?

Mr Apter says: ‘Many of the rank and file believe that those who are responsible for cutting the budgets want to break us. Many of my colleagues are saying we’re broken already.’

If this really is how police officers on the front line feel, we should all be deeply concerned.

The issue has been thrown into sharp focus by the series of terrorist attacks that have brought policing to the top of the political agenda in the run-up to the General Election.

Labour has been quick to issue warnings that cutting police numbers is a danger to the public, while prime minister Theresa May has been arguing that police forces are adequately resourced.

They will never agree, of course. Particularly not with an election just around the corner.

But whichever party wins tomorrow, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick is absolutely right when she says a debate is needed on how our police forces are funded.

Because common sense says that if they are asked to make more and more savings, then the thin blue line gets thinner and thinner still as very difficult decisions have to be made about where to concentrate what resources remain.

Right now, we suspect the overwhelming feeling among the public is that they want a police force that is highly visible, adequately-staffed and doing all it can to help keep them safe in times of great uncertainty.