Police & Crime Commissioner Vera Baird has called on the Chancellor to ‘pay back’ more than £1million to Northumbria Police after he was rebuked by the statistics watchdog over police funding cuts.
Sir Andrew Dilnot, the chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, has said that despite George Osborne’s claim to be providing ‘real-terms protection’ for the police, forces actually faced a £160million cut in their funding from central government in 2015/16 and 2016/17.
However, Mr Osborne says that his pledge holds good based on the assumption that police and crime commissioners raise the police precept element of council tax, which will cost residents in the Northumbria force area £5 a year extra.
In the letter to Shadow Home Secretary, Andy Burnham, Dilnot said the Chancellor ‘could have done more to provide greater clarity about the data’ in his Autumn Statement. ‘Providing a definition of the precept and implications about the precept amount change would also have been helpful’, it added.
Vera Baird said: “All of Osborne’s bravado last year was hot air – we knew at the time he had cut police budgets and this has been confirmed by the UK Statistics Authority. The Government manipulated the figures and assumed a council tax increase of £5 to just maintain the services. The Police Grant that we receive from government is less, it’s wrong that the Government forced the police to keep services at their current level by imposing a £5 increase with no consultation.”
“In relation to the police precept, it is normally the role of police & crime commissioners to determine an increase, if at all. This time the Government put in place the £5 increase – if this amount had not been included, our police force would have received even less funding.
“Northumbria has also had £1.2million directly removed and I want it back. I want this money to invest in policing to ensure we keep bobbies on the beat and that Northumbria remains one of the safest places in the country to live.”
Ms Baird will be meeting Mr Burnham and the Shadow Policing Minister, Jack Dromey, to urge them to keep the pressure on the Chancellor, to get him to correct the record and find the extra money to honour his promise.