More police forces are poised to give up investigating minor offences such as car crime and retail thefts without a significant funding increase in the budget next week, police and crime commissioners have warned.
The home affairs select committee was told on Tuesday that forces across England and Wales will lose a further 6,000 officers by 2020 without an urgent cash injection.
Kathryn Holloway, the Conservative police and crime commissioner for Bedfordshire, told MPs her county risked becoming the “retail theft capital of the UK” because the local force could no longer afford to attend retail thefts of less than £100. Bedfordshire police will also not attend vehicle crime such as thefts from cars, she said.
Her warning came after Sussex police said on Monday that they would seek to resolve less serious crimes over the phone or online as the force plans to focus resources only on offences that have the “biggest impact”.
The Metropolitan police have said they will no longer investigate thousands of “lower level crimes” such as burglaries. The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, warned that funding cuts meant policing was at a tipping point in London.
“I am increasingly worried about our ability to keep Londoners’ businesses and visitors safe in the context of the cuts being made not just to the counter-terror budget, but the overall policing budget,” he said.
“We are at a tipping point; if the government proceeds with reductions in the next three or four years, I am seriously worried about our ability to keep our city safe.”
Police forces in England and Wales received a “flat cash” settlement in the 2015 spending review, but in the run-up to the budget, a succession of senior police figures have said they need an extra £440m in 2018-19 and £845m in 2019-20 to meet increased demands, including terrorism.
The home secretary, Amber Rudd, told police chiefs earlier this month that budget discussions had to be about more than lobbying the government for extra money and accused them of “reaching for a pen to write a press release” at the first sign of an upturn in crime figures.