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UPDATED: Concern as Merseyside police numbers tumble
The number of police officers patrolling Merseyside has tumbled by more than 200.
Police numbers in England and Wales have fallen to their lowest level in nine years, new figures have shown.
In March of 2011, Merseyside had 4,297 officers - but by March of this year the figure had dropped to 4,083, a loss of 214 officers and representing a 5% cut in total.
Wirral South MP Alison McGovern said the reduction was “really, really worrying.”
She said: “I meet regularly with Wirral officers and they have warned that after a certain point, they will not be able to provide the level of service they would like.
“The local force is excellent and operates to a highly professional standard, if this was to be reduced I would be very critical of these cuts.
“As usual the Government is cutting too far and by too much.”
Under new legislation, Merseyside will soon have a police commissioner in charge of fighting crime.
Labour’s prospective candidate, the former Wavertree MP Jane Kennedy, said: “These cuts are reaching dangerous levels where the police are telling us it’s going to have a serious impact on their ability to tackle crime.
“After three years of these cuts, there will be 400 fewer Merseyside front line officers and a third fewer police stations.
“The Home Secretary has to change course, go back to the comprehensive spending review and consider Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary’s suggestions for saving money without affecting front line police services.”
Wirral West Conservative MP Esther McVey said: “Despite the unfortunate reduction in police numbers, which is Labour's legacy, Wirral and Merseyside still have one of the highest police per population ratio in the country.
"Recent figures indicate that crime is still falling across Merseyside."
Ms McVey said Merseyside Chief Constable Jon Murphy recently was able to report that crime had fallen by 8%; anti-social behaviour was down by 16%; response times remained the same and public confidence up by 5%.
She continued: "These really are tremendous results and credit has to go to each and every member of the police force.
"Dedicated neighbourhood teams will continue to be the cornerstone of our policing style and delivery, and Wirral and Merseyside police will strive to continue to improve levels of engagement and consultation with local people.
"Effective policing cannot be delivered in isolation; it relies on excellent working relationships with partners and the community, combined with resources, knowledge and experience.”
There were 134,101 officers in the 43 police forces at the end of March, more than 5,000 fewer than the previous year and fewer than at any point since 2003, according to the Home Office data.
Only Surrey has seen an increase in its number of officers over the 12 months to March, rising 4.7% from 1,885 to 1,974.
The biggest drop came in Derbyshire, where police officer numbers fell 10% from 2,021 at the end of March last year to 1,819 12 months later.
Merseyside Police have been invited to comment.