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“Significant strain” on police budgets is causing the service given to the public to worsen, a Home Office official has admitted after senior officers condemned the impact of austerity.

Scott McPherson, director general of the crime police and fire group, said the department “absolutely recognises” the struggle to cope with budget cuts and plummeting numbers of police officers.

“The police are under significant strain and, with the resources they have, some of the performance measures we would like to be improving are getting worse,” he told the Public Accounts Committee.

MPs heard there are 50,000 fewer people now working in policing compared to 2010, while violence, terrorism and non-crime demand has increased.

Senior officers told how they have not only been affected by cuts to their own forces, but by slashes to other public budgets that have left them as the “service of last resort” for mental health, missing people, suicide and other crises.

Some forces have started “prioritising” the crime they respond to because of the strain on resources, and figures show that the majority of victims are left with no confidence in the criminal justice system by their experience.

Investigations are taking longer and almost half are being closed with no suspect identified, while the proportion ending with someone being charged or summoned to court has fallen to 9 per cent.

Jane Kennedy, the Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner, said the falling number of police officers was having a “real impact on ordinary people”, adding: “The impact of austerity has been immense.”

Chief Superintendent Paul Griffiths, vice president of the Police Superintendents Association, said forces had been “impacted by the austerity that has hit other public services”.

He cited mental health-related calls as a particular issue, with the College of Policing saying that, of the 12 million incidents dealt with by police every year, 4 million are mental health-related. Read more

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