Funding fears after police grants revealed

Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird
Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird

Police chiefs in Northumbria have expressed concerns after the provisional police grants for 2017/18 were announced earlier this month.

Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird QC, said: “Once again government funding is continuing to be cut; their claims of protecting police funding remain untrue.

“Challenging times lie ahead as we will undoubtedly be impacted by the funding decrease of 1.4 per cent in cash terms.

“In simple terms, the Home Office expects PCCs to raise the precept locally in order to fulfil this funding shortfall and in Northumbria potentially prevent the loss of 34 police officers. Once again, the Home Office has taken more money from local policing and is reallocating it to various centrally-controlled funds in a process known as top slicing.

“With recent enhanced security threats and a rise in reports of sexual exploitation, now is a time we need to be investing in our police forces; we need more money, not less and I am baffled as to why the Government isn’t acknowledging this need. Any suggestion that the cuts won’t have an impact on future policing is completely unrealistic.

“In January, we will be reviewing everything to see how the announcement fits against the priorities for Northumbria so we can ensure we are doing all we can to balance the books moving forward, tackling the legacy of the cuts of the last five years. I am fully committed to making all the savings I can and will continue to work with chief constable to run a financially-efficient service. Our objective and challenge remains the same – to protect frontline policing and deliver for the people of Northumbria.”

Chief Constable Steve Ashman said: “The settlement, at face value, is worrying for us. We will work through the detail as soon as we can, but it again leaves us facing further cuts with little or no room to manoeuvre in terms of options for savings or time to deliver them.

“To move from one year to the next with no clarity over longer term funding is deeply frustrating.”

In a written ministerial statement, the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service, Brandon Lewis MP, said: “The Government is committed to protecting the public. The Government will provide the resources necessary for the police to do their critical work, and prioritise finishing the job of police reform by enabling the police to transform so they can tackle changing crime, deal with previously hidden crimes and protect the vulnerable.

“Since 2010 we have seen some of the biggest changes to policing in a generation. Crime is down by over a quarter according to the Independent Crime Survey for England and Wales. There is significantly greater local accountability and transparency and police leaders have taken the opportunity to radically reform the way they deliver services to the public. Police officers have been taken out of back office roles and resources focused on front line delivery. Police forces are working more closely than ever before to reduce costs and duplication, and have started to work more closely with other emergency services through co-location and collaboration in areas such as fire and mental health.

“As Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has set out, there is still considerable scope for forces to continue to improve the efficiency of their organisations and transform the way in which they operate, and it is vital that the pace and urgency of change continues if we are to have a police force fit to meet the challenges of the 21st century. HMIC noted: ‘We found evidence to suggest that some forces have reduced the pace and ambition of their plans since last year’. The Government expects Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) and Chief Constables to do everything in their power to drive efficiencies at pace, and this settlement provides the opportunity to improve the quality of policing and continue to reduce crime.”

The statement also adds that the 10 PCCs in England with the lowest precept bills (the lower quartile), which includes Northumbria, will be able to raise their precept by £5 per band D household.