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Police Commissioner criticises Government's 'misplaced' priorities as he unveils budget plans that will shrink Force

Police Commissioner criticises Government’s ‘misplaced’ priorities as he unveils budget plans that will shrink Force

Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Charles will formally present his case to increase this year’s policing precept to manage the “debilitating” funding cuts imposed by the Government.

In a report due to be presented to the Strategic Governance Board on Tuesday 27 January, Commissioner Charles will outline proposals to raise the amount local people pay towards policing to 1.99% in 2015-16 which represents an additional £3.39 per year for a Band D property.

Amounting to slightly less than a 2% increase, which would have automatically triggered a local referendum, the additional income will generate about £1m per year and provide a vital contribution in the Force’s ability to balance this year’s budget.

However, the Commissioner has painted a bleak future if austerity cuts continue at the same rate, warning that the Force will not be able to sustain officer numbers nor protect the current level of service in years to come.

Last month, the Government announced details of the 2015-16 funding settlement, which sees Derbyshire’s slice of the pot reduce from £105.812m to £100.400m this year – a decrease of some £5.4m.

The total budget for 2015-16 is £161.635m. The Force stands to lose out on an additional £1.178m as a result of the top-slicing to the main grant to fund Government projects – this is on top of the £1.274m already taken from last year’s settlement. The Force already faces a £2m loss in income every year due to the fact that the Government does not apply its own funding formula.

Announcing his proposed budget arrangements, Commissioner Charles said: “The volume of debilitating cuts enforced upon Derbyshire cannot fail but to impact on future police services. Our financial position is managed very well, and in the past this has resulted in little noticeable impact on the quality of response our communities receive. But we simply cannot maintain this position forever and while some types of crime have fallen the reality is that digital and other types of modern crime are in all likelihood increasing. This will not go unnoticed by the public.

“This Government is pursuing a hugely misplaced set of priorities which has delivered reductions in taxation for the very wealthy while critical public services are slashed. It is a shocking fact that within the next four years officer numbers in Derbyshire will be at their lowest level since the 1980s. This is despite the vast emerging threats to public safety particularly cybercrime and internet-based grooming. Such risks are hugely complicated to investigate and require significant investment in specialist resources – money which the Force simply hasn’t got.

“We are working very hard to minimise the risks of our financial difficulties on public safety but this will inevitably result in changes, including fewer police officers and staff, changes to roles and a reduced number of police buildings. Difficult decisions will continue to be made based on threat, risk and demand.

“Increasing the precept this year will enable us to take some of the sting out of the current cuts and strengthen our base budget in the future. Despite these current difficulties the Chief Constable and I remain totally committed to shaping a service that will deliver the best performance possible.”

The Force has recently completed a Priority Based Budgeting (PBB) exercise to understand how services are delivered and how much they cost to prioritise the areas which need investment to help meet the Commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan.

As a result, staff and officer numbers will reduce, mostly as a result of voluntary redundancies, career moves and non-recruitment of vacant posts over a five-year period. This is an unavoidable situation since 80% of the Force’s budget is spent on people and many options for identifying savings have already been exhausted.

The Force will also look to shrink its estate further in response to changes to the way local policing will be delivered, which will coincide with new technology enabling officers to be more mobile and reduce the need to return to police buildings.

The Commissioner has healthy reserves some of which the Chief Constable will use to cushion the impact on any staff/officer reductions and will protect the Force to some extent from the immediate impact of unpredictable grant reductions. However, these reserves cannot be repeatedly used to plug the gap year on year and will be essential to investing in future crime detection needs including advanced technology.

The majority of the buildings being closed have few officers within them and are not regularly visited by the public. The Force has had to prioritise people over buildings to protect services and channel funds into the most critical areas.

Since 2010, the Force has shaved £24m off the budget, which was achieved through some very difficult choices including a freeze on police officer recruitment levels and a reduction of some 162 police officers and 269 staffing posts. By 2019/20 there is a projected reduction of 260 police officers.

Ends

Media enquiries:  Sallie Blair 01283 821012

Posted on Friday 23rd January 2015
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