The number of police officers on the beat in Birmingham may have to be slashed in a bid to foot the soaring cost of policing the Pope’s visit to the city next month.
Bob Jones, chair of finance and resources committee at West Midlands Police authority, said the force may have no choice but to reduce staffing levels to foot the multi-million pound bill to fund Pope Benedict XVI’s visit.
“We are already looking at reducing the number of staff and police officers in future years, but if we have to pay the costs of the [papal] visit, that process will be accelerated,” he said.
“Why should the people of the West Midlands face a lower level of service from the police because of a state visit? The Government should be funding this.”
In total it is likely to cost more than £7 million to police the Pope’s four-day trip to Britain, which will include three open-air masses in Birmingham, London and Glasgow.
It comes as police forces are battling with a £125 million reduction in their budgets this financial year and they face further Government spending cuts in the autumn.
The entire cost to the taxpayer of the Pope’s trip – the first papal visit to Britain in 28 years – is expected to reach more than £20 million.
The Catholic Church has been struggling to meet costs to stage the masses and Brummies have been asked to pay £25 to attend the service at the city’s Cofton Park on Sunday, September 19.
More than 70,000 people are expected to gather at Cofton Park for the Pope’s visit. After the mass he will travel to The Oratory in Edgbaston, and from there to Oscott College in Sutton Coldfield before flying home from Birmingham International Airport.