This week, bosses confirmed that the cost of coronavirus to Northumbria Police could reach £2.4 million in 2020/21 – with financial impacts ranging from additional resources and PPE to loss of income.
The update came during a meeting of the region’s Police and Crime Panel on Tuesday, June 9, which was held remotely in line with social distancing guidelines.
At the meeting, panel member and deputy leader of Sunderland City Council, Coun Michael Mordey, raised concerns about the financial impact of coronavirus on the force from Covid-19 and future government support.
“As local authorities we have had similar assurances at the very beginning of the pandemic that all of our costs would be recovered and then we have seen minister after minister roll back on that commitment,” he said.
“We have a massive black hole of roughly about £20 million in Sunderland City Council now that we would have to rely on either significant cuts or use of reserves – but the reserves that the council has available wouldn’t stretch that far.
“So we would have to significantly cut services as we are legally obliged to present a balanced budget.
“So the question to the commissioner is will the £2.4 million eat into the [police force’s] reserves if the Government don’t come forward with the funding and what impact will that have on frontline policing.”
Chief finance officer, Mike Tait, said while cash flow was being managed, the force may have to use its reserves if the cost of Covid-19 isn’t reimbursed.
This was due to spending plans already being agreed to allow the force to deliver its share of the national uplift of 20,000 new police officers with Home Office funding.
“We’re managing cash flow in a prudent and effective way and ultimately what we’re trying to do is ensure that there’s no impact on that wider future medium term plan,” Mr Tait said.
“We’re still looking to invest in that increased numbers of officers and increased staff that will support that.
“That may mean that during 2020/21 we will absolutely have to use more of our general reserves than we were otherwise intending if the Home Office do not meet the costs that we’re incurring.”
Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, told the meeting it was important to pressure the Government over the costs of Covid-19.
“In a similar way to local government, we have verbal promises from ministers which we will hold them to but we do not have anything specifically in writing that says we will get all of that money back,” she said.
“That’s a great concern to me, yes we have reserves, yes it shows us what our reserves are really for if we absolutely need them.
“But actually we should be getting that money back from the Government because they have made that commitment to us.”
PCC Kim McGuinness stressed recruitment plans were still on track with Northumbria Police looking to increase diversity in its workforce.
She added the force “needed to be ready for what comes after Covid.”