Ministers have been asked to draw up scenarios where between £2.75 billion and £4.5 billion is slashed from their existing £11.1 billion budget, but exact details will remain unknown until October 20.
Key questions remain on the department’s record on immigration following the Labour years. Law and order issues are perpetually a key concern of the public and police will come under close inspection. Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has told forces it was “ridiculous” to suggest that cuts could not be made without jeopardising front line policing.
In September Derek Barnett, the Police Superintendents Association president, insisted that police budgets should be protected because frontline officers would have to protect the public in a period of “disaffection, social and industrial tensions”.
The Home Office was targeted for a £367 million cut in “wasteful” spending in George Osborne’s emergency measures in May, including £135 million in police efficiency savings and £34 million from increasing visa fees and recovering more money from criminals.
Policing – which devours £6 billion of the department’s budget – will lose money, with some predictions that police forces could have to lose 60,000 officers and staff.
In practice, any redundancies are likely to involve PCSOs or back-room staff rather than police officers, who cannot be made redundant.
Savings are likely to be made by cutting back on “non-essential” police work such as crime prevention. Specialist police teams, such as murder squads or firearms, are likely to feel the pinch but spending on counter-terrorism is expected to be protected.
A quango with a £550 million a year budget, the National Policing Improvement Agency, is widely expected to be scrapped.
The UK Border Agency will also have to make savings from its £1.6 billion budget at a time when the Government’s cap on immigration levels will reduce income from visa fees.