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Police numbers have risen in West Yorkshire

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The number of officers in West Yorkshire Police has increased over the last year, new figures from the Home Office show.

But across England and Wales, the reduction in police officers to the lowest level since 1996 has led the Police Federation to warn that “policing in the UK is on the critical list”.

In March, there were the equivalent of 5,014 full-time officers in West Yorkshire – an increase of 294 on March 2017.

But more than 700 officers were lost across the 43 police forces in England and Wales.

The latest figures show an 11 per cent rise in recorded crime across England and Wales, and a 19 per cent increase in violent crimes.

In West Yorkshire, recorded crime was up by 11 per cent. Violent crime saw a 24 per cent increase.

Addressing the national picture, Ché Donald of the Police Federation of England and Wales said: “These new figures are proof, as if we even needed it, that policing in the UK is on the critical list.

“Thanks to government funding cuts, we now have the lowest number of police officers since 1996. The figures show we have lost more than 21,300 officers since 2010 – that’s a drop of 15 per cent and the numbers keep going down every year.

“We have a Government who recently launched their Serious Violence Strategy – yet failed to make one single mention of the falling numbers of officers, which they were rightly criticised for. You would think that every time we have the same conversations about rising crime, particularly violent crime, it would be a wake-up call for the Government. But instead it just feels like we are sleepwalking into a nightmare.”

The figures show that more time is being spent on frontline policing – 4,251 officers were available for frontline duties in March this year, up 255 from 2017.

The total police staff in West Yorkshire, including police community support officers and administrative staff, increased by 2 per cent over the last year.

The minister for Policing and the Fire Service, Nick Hurd, said: “The number of people joining police forces is at a 10-year high and demonstrates that policing is still a desirable and sought-after career.

“Decisions regarding the number of officers and how they are deployed are a matter for Police and Crime Commissioners and Chief Constables. They are best placed to understand how to meet the needs of local communities.

“However, I’ve spoken to every force about the changing demand they face and we are helping with a £460m increase in overall funding 2018-19, including increased funding to tackle counter-terrorism and increased funding for local policing through council tax precept.”

Earlier this week, a Home Office report showed that government funding for West Yorkshire Police had decreased by 2 per cent between the 2015-16 and 2018-19 financial years.

Overall funding, however, increased by 3 per cent, as council tax payers picked up the bill with a 23 per cent increase in the precept they paid.