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Frontline policing will suffer from budget cuts
Russell Armstrong believes about 80 fewer police officers being recruited in 2013. Picture: Dione Davidson/The West Australian

The Police Union claims frontline policing will suffer if WA Police has to cut another two per cent from its budget.

Outgoing union president Russell Armstrong said it was misleading for Treasurer Christian Porter to claim frontline services would not be affected by the cuts, which would shave $21 million from the 2012-13 police budget and up to $40m the following year.

“There’s already a budget over-run of $19million so with the cuts we would have to find $40 million in savings by next year – that equates to about 80 full-time officers,” Mr Armstrong said.

“We believe this would equate to about 80 fewer police officers being recruited in 2013.”

Mr Armstrong said budget cuts would inevitably impact frontline policing.

“Police demand is going through the roof, with the number of calls to the Police Operations Centre for assistance increasing by the thousands each month,” Mr Armstrong said.

“We have seen unprecedented increases in the aggravated burglaries and armed robberies in the last six months and the Police Commissioner had to borrow an extra $3 million for the summer crime strategy, which didn’t work.”

Mr Armstrong said that in 2011, the State Government commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers to do a value management audit on WA Police and the report found there was no waste or overspending.

“This Government says it has a solid record of cutting waste and delivering more efficiency across the public sector,” he said.

“It now wants to ignore the report it commissioned and target WA Police for cuts.”

The union said 75 per cent of the police department’s budget was spent on wages, with just 25 per cent allocated for cars, motor bikes, equipment and operations.

To lose 2 per cent would be a disaster for police and the community, Mr Armstrong said.

Mr Armstrong said budget cuts introduced by the Barnett Government in 2009, resulted in fewer police vehicles and motorcycles on the roads.

“We’re now seeing PCYCs closing, which is unpopular in the community,” he said. “Since 2009 the Police Commissioner also tried to shut down North West Water Police to save money but this was later undone by Premier Colin Barnett.”

“In 2011 the Treasurer took $600,000 from the police budget for the fee-for-services that was to be introduced, and which currently hasn’t been agreed to, leaving a $600,000 budget hole.”

Mr Armstrong said enforcing the sex offender register would also require more funding and more frontline officers.

The State Government-wide budget cuts were announced yesterday as a bid to save more than $1 billion over four years.

Departments will be forced to shave 2 per cent from their 2012-13 budgets, saving roughly $200 million, plus one per cent in each of the following three years.

Government trading enterprise budgets will shrink 2.5 per cent next year followed by 1.5 per cent a year for two years and 0.5 per cent in 2015-16.

There will also be a two-year freeze on full-time equivalent public servants — except frontline police, education and health services — and staff growth will be limited to 1.5 per cent a year in the following two years.

On top of the cuts, described by the Government as “efficiency dividends”, spending will be deferred on yet-to-be revealed capital works.

Mr Porter said the savings were needed after the Commonwealth Grants Commission ripped $800 million from the May Budget by cutting the State’s predicted GST share from 72¢ in the dollar to 55¢.

Mr Armstrong said the community should be outraged by the cuts.

“I can’t believe the arrogance of a Premier who can spend $25.5 million for an office for himself yet presides over increased costs in electricity and so on,” he said.

“The public needs to know that any call for police assistance may not be responded to as fast as they would like because of these senseless budget cuts.”