The Government is to spend around pounds 4 million on the first
national recruitment campaign for police officers in an attempt to stem
an embarrassing fall in police numbers.
The Home Office, which has left recruitment to individual police forces
in the past, is drawing up urgent proposals for a television and
national press blitz. The drive will be financed from the pounds 285
million ’crime-fighting package’ introduced in this year’s budget.
An agency is expected to be appointed in the next two months. Although
no shortlist has yet been drawn up, Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper is tipped to
win a place after its previous work for the Home Office, including the
recruitment of special constables, voter registration and fire
The campaign will prove politically controversial, with the Conservative
Party accusing Labour of using taxpayers’ money in an attempt to honour
its 1997 general election pledge to ’get more officers back on the
A Tory spokesman said: ’This is a panic move by a government that has
failed to deliver on law and order and cannot be trusted.’
Jack Straw, the home secretary, has admitted that there could be fewer
police officers at the time of the next election than when Labour came
to power, with an unusually high number of officers eligible for
retirement this year. In 1997 police numbers stood at 127,000 but Home
Office projections suggest the figure could fall by 2,600 by next spring
when the next general election is due.
The campaign brief is expected to call for the winning agency to tackle
the police’s ’image problem’ and to portray the force as a modern,
hi-tech organisation that is exciting to work for. At-tempts to boost
police numbers have been hit by a high drop-out rate, particularly in
London, where the abolition of the Metropolitan Police housing allowance
six years ago has also been blamed for falling recruitment. The
Government now plans to restore the allowance and some forces are
planning ’golden hellos’ of up to pounds 5,000 to lure recruits deterred
by low pay.
Straw ran into controversy last autumn when a leaked Treasury memo
revealed that his pledge to recruit an extra 5,000 officers would not
increase overall numbers but at best would only keep them stable.