Police time on the beat tumbles to 13 per cent as red tape blitz fails

Police

Police are said to now be spending only 13 per cent of their time on the beat

Efforts to get police out on the beat by slashing paperwork have failed, the Government's own 'red tape tsar' warned yesterday.

Former Police Federation chairman Jan Berry said officers spend just 13 per cent of their day on patrol.

In an indictment of Labour's failure to get police on to the streets, she said there had been no improvement on the amount of time police spend on frontline duties in the last two years - and in some areas it had got worse.

Miss Berry, who leads a task force looking at how to slash bureaucracy, said officers were still swamped with paperwork.

She blamed a fixation with targets, saying there was a culture of 'what gets counted, gets done', rather than what mattered to the public.

The latest Home Office figures show that officers spend fewer than six hours a week patrolling the streets.

The percentage of time spent on paperwork has risen from 18.4 per cent of all officer time in 2005 to 19.7 per cent in 2007.

Meanwhile, the time spent on patrol is down from 15.3 per cent to 13.6 per cent.

Miss Berry said a string of initiatives by the Home Office to stem the tide of so- called 'incident-related paperwork' had failed.

Last year the Government spent £50million providing police forces with 10,000 handheld computers which Gordon Brown claimed would cut paperwork by 99 minutes per shift.

More than 27,000 of them have now been given to forces.

But Miss Berry said officers were still having to return to their desks to file a paper report for each incident as the computers lack the right programs to report crime remotely.

Miss Berry said: 'If they go to a scene of a crime, officers are having to record everything on a piece of paper.

'Or they are having to telephone someone on the crime desk and hold the phone to the victim, so they can take details.'

Asked if officers were spending more time on patrol, Miss Berry said: 'No. If you talk to police officers they would say it has remained the same or got slightly worse which is quite worrying.'

She criticised senior officers for being obsessed with scoring highly in performance 'league tables'.

And she blamed competition between forces and arrest quotas for distorting priorities, warning the 'real problems of communities can be overlooked'.

Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said: 'We need to free up police and get them back on our streets fighting crime.

'This Labour Government should be ashamed at the amount or red tape it has wrapped around police officers.'

 

Police will be told to patrol alone as part of a drastic plan to save up to £500million.

The Government aims to cut overtime by £70million a year and save £75million a year in 'back office support services' within four years, which is likely to mean the loss of civilian support jobs.

A White Paper on policing also said forces will have to adopt the same national uniform and a standard patrol car to save cash.

The Home Office also wants to cut the police helicopter fleet from 33 to 26 and reduce spending on IT.

The idea of officers patrolling alone is to make them more approachable to the public, but critics have said it is a cheap way to double the number of patrols.

Police Federation chairman Paul McKeever warned: 'To drastically cut back is likely to lead to a police service in carnage that cannot deliver.'

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