Home secretary urged to re-think police funding15 January, 2015
LANCASHIRE’S Police and Crime Commissioner has written to the Home Secretary urging her to re-think funding for police forces.
Clive Grunshaw wants Theresa May to allow Police and Crime Commissioners to raise council tax above the current 2% referendum limit, giving them more freedom to act on the wishes of local residents.
Currently, Lancashire’s residents are indicating through the consultation they would be willing to pay up to an average of 15p a week more – a 5% rise on the current bill.
And the Commissioner has also argued to the Home Secretary that police budgets are bearing an unfair level of cuts due to the fact that other public budgets are protected. He believes the £4.2m proposed to be top-sliced from the Lancashire budget to fund national bodies, such as the HMIC and IPCC, is adding to the burden and will impact on the force.
The full letter is as follows:
As the Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire I am urging you to consider:
- fairer funding for local policing and
- to abolish the need for local referendums on proposed police precept increases where commissioners can prove significant local support.
The recent Home Office announcement of grant allocation to Police and Crime Commissioners to fund the police service in our areas once again saw the unprotected police budget taking more than its fair share of the cuts.
Here in Lancashire not only did we receive the bombshell news that we would face a massive reduction of £9.8m off our funding allocation for 2015/16 we also discovered that the cuts included a £4.2m top-slice (a 90% increase) to fund a range of national initiatives and bodies.
A total of £251m has been top sliced off the national police budget for 2015/16. This money is being taken from frontline policing and a significant amount will go to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). In short the Home Office is taking funding for local crime prevention and policing and awarding it to a national inspection regime. At a time when local policing is facing cuts of 5.1% it seems incredible to me that the IPCC can receive a 108% increase in its funding allocation.
While there is a possibility I may receive some additional funding if a bid to the innovation fund is successful, it is unlikely to be anywhere close to the amount I am being asked to save.
Here in Lancashire I could limit some of the cuts by increasing the council tax precept by 15p a week for a band D property. This would raise £3.5m reducing the cuts significantly and helping me to protect frontline policing.
However once again I feel I am prevented from taking this step due to the 2% referendum requirement your Government is imposing. Holding a referendum in Lancashire will cost around £1.5m and like many of my fellow Commissioners around the country I don’t believe this is a good use of declining public funds. I believe a referendum to be totally unnecessary especially as I have recently polled Lancashire residents and 80% told me they are willing to pay a council tax increase above the referendum threshold – in fact more than half of those surveyed said they wanted a 5% increase (15p per week).
But I can’t implement this increase without a referendum. This is central government dictating to local government and taking action to restrict our ability to make local decisions based on local need.
So as things stand in Lancashire any increase will be limited to just 1.99% – less than 6p per week based on a band D property raising just £1.4m in total leaving the force with unacceptable and unnecessary cuts to local policing.
So in summary what has austerity meant for the Lancashire force?
- As outlined above the referendum level is too low and is potentially costing Lancashire £2.1m in unnecessary cuts when the people across the county are telling me they are prepared to pay more
- In 2015/16 £4.2m will be top-sliced from our budget to fund national initiatives and inspections
- Cuts to funding by Government mean we have already saved £60m off our budget and will need to save at least another £20m by 2017/18
- HMIC highlighted the way Lancashire Constabulary has managed change well so far in its recent PEEL assessment and singled out its futures programme for praise
- Around 700 police officer job roles and 400 staff roles have been lost since austerity began and if cuts continue at the same rate to 2021 those numbers could double
- On average £3m per year has been spent on redundancy costs in recent years which is likely to continue at a similar level in the future
- In Lancashire 165 PCSO posts are part funded to the tune of £1.9m from partner agencies such as local councils who are also facing cuts themselves
- Multi-agency work to tackle child sexual exploitation is also under threat from continued cuts not just to the police budget but to local council funding too
- The force is investing in technology to help keep in touch with the public and ensure officers can be out in the field for longer
So as you can see the policing picture in Lancashire is a changing one and I receive daily requests for reassurance from parish and local councils about policing levels in their communities; but with the continuing reduction in funding it is getting harder for me to be able to provide any assurance at all.
Lancashire Constabulary continues to keep people safe and their officers will be there when they are needed, but with reduced numbers their effectiveness at preventing crime and improving safety in neighbourhoods will continue to be undermined and local policing as we know it is being changed forever.
Thank you for taking the time to consider the issues raised in this letter and I look forward to your reply.
Police & Crime Commissioner for Lancashire