Police in line for 20% squeeze over next four years

Police have warned that cutbacks to budgets threaten to set back recent progress in the fight against insurance fraud.

Durham Constabulary deputy chief constable Mike Barton told Insurance Times that fraud surveillance squads face a tough fight for increasingly scarce resources against teams tackling more visible crimes such as theft and burglary.

Barton, who spoke to Insurance Times as part of a wide-ranging investigation into the links between insurance fraud and organised crime, said: “Understandably, communities see robbery and violent crime as a bigger priority than investigating cash-for-crash frauds.”

He said fraud investigations are “incredibly resource-intensive” and, while there is public concern about rising premiums, the impact of such offences is less immediate than many other types of crime.

“In the 1980s, we fought shy of fraud because they were really hard to get through the courts,” he added.

Cunningham Lindsey complex technical services director Cath Williams said several specialist surveillance teams she is working with in south-east England have either been cut back or had members redeployed to unrelated roles. “They are not just ‘nice to have’; they are an essential resource,” she said.

A Police Federation spokesman said there was “no doubt” front-line services such as fraud surveillance would suffer in the competition for resources from shrinking budgets.

He also warned that government plans to introduce elected police commissioners would increase pressure on chief constables to concentrate resources on tackling highly visible crime and anti-social behaviour.

The police service faces a cut equivalent to 20% of its budget over the lifetime of the current Parliament, with the brunt of the squeeze taking place during the next two years.

The cuts are predicted to lead to thousands of job cuts.