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OzBox - a tough decision in increasingly tough financial circumstances.

OzBox - a tough decision in increasingly tough financial circumstances.

Statement from Alan Charles 

It is with frustration and extreme reluctance that I support the Force’s decision to cease its funding of OzBox.

Over the last three years OzBox has been funded by a Lottery Grant, which has been jointly match-funded by the Police and Derbyshire County Council.   Unfortunately, the Lottery Grant has finished and has not been renewed.  If the Police and County Council were to continue to fund the scheme, it would require a substantial financial increase which is quite simply not available.

The Government’s austerity measures mean that the Chief Constable and I have to make some very tough decisions, and  there will undoubtedly be more to come as we predict further Government grant cuts of around £26m over next four or five years.  This week alone we were told that we were receiving £400k less than had been intimated due to Government top slicing yet more of Derbyshire’s grant to increase spending on HMIC inspections, the IPCC and direct entry to policing at high rank levels in other forces. 

I’m equally aware that the County Council faces cuts of c£157m and has to prioritise the most vulnerable people in our communities with the funds that remain. 

It is on this basis that the Chief Constable has decided that OzBox cannot be supported whist we are facing such massive cuts which will impact on officer and staff numbers. I do support his decision and in reality this is but one of many disappointing decisions that the Chief Constable and I will have to take in the coming months.

I’m relieved that the financial position across Derbyshire Constabulary has been very well managed since the austerity measures were introduced and at the current time we are managing to cope with the extremely stringent position Government has placed us in.

But there is a lesson here, policing will inevitably look different in the future and there will be changes, including around 260 less Police Officers, 150 less police staff and building closures.

I am more than aware that OzBox has been an excellent scheme attracting hundreds of young people and I have been pleased to support it.   Steve Osbaldeston had great vision in setting up this project, which has been epitomised by the many awards and honours it has received.

Now, however, we are faced with stark choices.    On behalf of the public we are here to serve we have to prioritise protecting as far as possible the number of Police Officers on Derbyshire’s streets, numbers which are in any case predicted to fall to levels lower than the 1980s.  We will continue to recruit new officers but at a massively reduced level.

Putting the Ozbox decision into context, the project currently costs the Police c£465k a year.  A recruitment round of 16 new Police Constables costs c£480k plus training costs.  This is why, with great sadness, the Police Budget simply cannot continue to support OzBox.

As I’ve said, I think it is a valuable scheme, and I would strongly welcome any interest from local business looking to sponsor such a community-based initiative. 

I understand that this is an emotive decision, and am aware that some people feel very strongly about it.  So, I would like to explain that the Green Stable scheme, which has been mentioned in some texts and tweets, is a very low cost scheme whereby farmers offer stabling for stray horses for a short period.  The owner of the horse pays the fixed stabling cost.  The Police only pay for those animals not claimed and there is a 14 day limit.  This scheme potentially saves many hours of wasted police officer time in trying to locate a safe place for these stray animals who can create serious traffic risk to the public.  This scheme saves money.

I fully understand why so many young people and their parents are upset at the demise of OzBox; will you join my campaign with Derby City Council in lobbying the Government to stop the devastating cuts to Derbyshire’s Police Service. http://www.derby.gov.uk/whats-happening-in-derby/news/back-our-bobbies/

You can read the Force’s announcement here http://www.derbyshire.police.uk/News-and-Appeals/News/2014/December/18-Dec-PoliceconfirmclosureofOzBoxschemenextyear.aspx

Posted on Saturday 20th December 2014
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