I do not accept that simple, direct correlation, as I shall explain.
In the 12 months to September 2012—the latest period for which crime survey figures are reported—we have seen an 8% decrease in overall crime against adults in England and Wales. We also have figures in that survey that show that since 1981 the lowest chance of being a victim of crime was in the 12 months up to that date. It should be a truth universally acknowledged that the effectiveness of a police force does not directly depend on the number of staff, but rather the way in which they are deployed.
We have already heard that the Home Secretary has scrapped central targets and energised the drive by chief constables to reduce unnecessary process—not just fewer forms, but a change in the way officers do things. There have been some encouraging examples of what the Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Keith Vaz— I see him in his place—and I looked at: the so-called four-force pilot of a much quicker and sharper incident reporting regime by officers on the beat. We have seen a rolling back of statutory charging in respect of more triable either-way offences, giving more discretion to the charging sergeant in the station so that he or she does not have to hang around on the telephone or wait for a Crown Prosecution Service solicitor to fetch up to give the charging authorisation. There are other examples, but we know that as a result of this crackdown on bureaucracy, memorably reported on by Sir Ronnie Flanagan in the second half of the last Parliament, progress is being made. The results are already there for us to see.
The number of police officers in front-line roles is projected to increase by 2% between March 2012 and March 2013. The proportion of officers in front-line roles is expected to increase from the 83% we inherited in 2010 to 89% in 2015. I found another statistic through research. According to Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary—fairly objective data there, I feel—in March 2010, 17% of officers were in non-front-line roles, while the Government are forecasting that their announced policy measures could bring this down to 10% by March 2015.