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Government

Welcome on spending

That the Government’s overall police spending is ‘protected in real terms’ over the next four years has been welcomed by police, although some only cautiously so. The Spending Review and Autumn Statement included £500m increased funding for the counter terrorism budget; and the National Crime Agency’s budget would also be protected over the spending review period.

The Home Office said that PCCs (police and crime commissioners) would have ‘greater flexibility’ in their local funding decisions by rewarding areas which have historically kept council tax low.

Home Secretary, Theresa May, pictured, said: “The first duty of government is to keep the public safe and secure and that is exactly what this settlement does. Over the next four years, we will increase the counter-terrorism budget by £500 million and invest £130 million in state of the art technology at the border. A further £250 million investment will be used to transform the immigration system by making passports applications digital, streamlining the visa process and to better identify those who are here illegally.

“The Chancellor and I have agreed a fair deal for the police. This settlement gives Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners immediate certainty that police spending will be protected in real terms over the Spending Review period, when local precept income is taken into account. This includes extra investment to continue the job of police reform we started in the last Parliament. We will invest £1 billion to link up the emergency services and provide new funding to drive closer collaboration between police forces on specialist capabilities like firearms, cyber crime and child sexual exploitation. The public should be reassured that the police will have the resources they need to respond to new threats rapidly and effectively to keep people safe.

“Police reform is working and crime has fallen by more than a quarter since 2010 – to the lowest level ever recorded – even as budgets reduced by a fifth. There can be no doubt that, with continued reform, the police can drive more efficiency, a better service, and even less crime over the next five years.”

Leicestershire Chief Constable Simon Cole QPM said:” I very much welcome the announcement by the Chancellor that there will be no cuts in police budgets for the next five years.

“Since 2010, against a backdrop of a growing population in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland and the changing nature of crime and its complexity, the force has successfully reduced its operating budget by £36.1 million and also achieved year on year reductions in recorded crime.

“I made clear my concerns about further cuts to our budget as part of our consultation exercise and when I appeared before the Home Affairs Select Committee earlier this month.

“I am yet to examine the detail of what the Chancellor has set out today but we remain committed to innovation and reform. However, the news that there will be no further cuts to the police budget in Leicestershire is positive for local people and local communities.”

Lancashire Chief Constable Steve Finnigan said: “Cumulatively we have seen our budget reduce by £74m since 2010. Changes to the funding formula have been delayed until 2017 after it became clear that the Home Office made an error with the funding formula calculations, but it is still a cloud hanging over us and we cannot forget about this. The changes we have been developing as part of our organisational change programme we still intend to implement, in order to deliver required savings and to improve the policing services through a more efficient and effective organisational model. We will continue to reconfigure the organisation to focus on priority high risk areas like public protection, counter terrorism and cybercrime to improve delivery while minimising the impact on frontline policing.

Alan Charles, Labour’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Derbyshire said: “From our early analysis it appears that the Chancellor’s statement could be somewhat misrepresentative of the actual situation. For example, even our standstill position is predicated on PCCs setting an increase in the amount raised from local taxpayers of 2%.

“The Chancellor also unveiled several levies and a number of other measures today, such as a much vaunted increase for armed response teams and the work to tackle terrorism, but he failed to specify whether the money was coming from the Government’s purse or the already beleaguered police budgets. So, we need to see the detail and that won’t happen until we receive provisional notification of the amount of grant we will actually receive in mid-December. At that point we will have some firm facts to work with and until then it is still a wait-and-see situation.”

West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said that West Yorkshire Police had already had to face significant cuts; “and the organisation has reduced from one with over 10,000 officers and staff in 2010 to one with fewer than 8,000 officers and staff now. It is also important to remember that keeping our communities safer and feeling safer is done in partnership with other organisations. Many of those have seen their budgets cut too and will see them reduce further after today’s CSR.”

The chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) finance group, Paddy Tipping, also Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “We praise the government that during this difficult time they have taken the decision to not cut the police budget. We continue to be committed to innovation and reform to provide a secure service to the public who value neighbourhood policing. We will be working together, and with the government, to continue to invest in new technology; reduce back off costs and share resources where possible.

“We welcome the resources being made available to fund care and support for vulnerable women through redirecting taxation. In addition, we know that both the courts and prison systems need reform and investment. We therefore welcome the Chancellors announcements. The details of these announcements need to be worked through. We look forward to further discussions and provisional grant announcements next month.”

The APCC pointed out that with financial pressures on other local services such as health, ambulance and councils, people automatically look to the police. The association has said that varying between forces, since 2010 staff posts have reduced by 15,500 (19.5pc). It has suggested ‘more flexible approaches to income generation’. In a September submission to the spending review, the APCC said that since 2010 the ‘intrinsic structure of policing has largely survived the cuts’.

As for rank and file police, Steve White, chair, Police Federation of England and Wales, said: ‘We welcome that sense has finally prevailed and that the chancellor has announced there will be no further cuts to police budgets over this Parliament. Communities around the country will be breathing a sigh of relief that things are not going to get drastically worse as had been threatened. However, we will need to look closely at the detail to see what it will actually mean for forces.

‘Clearly, the government has recognised the value that our members bring to the communities they serve. To have cut the police further at this time would have been utter madness. I have my doubts that this would have ever happened had we at the Police Federation not been the only police organisation prepared to consistently raise the dangers and threats. This is clearly good news but it doesn’t mean that the problems we have been highlighting in recent years have miraculously vanished overnight. Officers are still hugely under pressure and many forces still have the final tranche of savings from the last set of cuts to find.

He added that it was imperative the government revisits the outdated and antiquated 43-force structure which hamstrings the ability of the service to properly modernise, and would be raising this issue directly with the Home Secretary. The federation has complained that the last five years of cuts have so far resulted in the loss of 17,000 police officers and almost the equivalent number of support staff.

For the police chiefs’ body the National Police Chiefs’ Council, the chair, Sara Thornton said: “The level of police funding is determined by politicians; we present our operational requirements and professional judgment to inform their decision-making but the final decision rests with them. We are delighted on behalf of the public with the announcement made by the Chancellor that police budgets will not be cut over the course of this Parliament.

“We remain committed to the need to transform and reform policing. Our officers will need to be better connected, better equipped and better informed in the future to cope with changing demand. Better use of technology, more integration with other public sector partners and professionally qualified staff continue to be priorities.

“We will be doing things differently. There will be more collaboration among forces with more sharing of specialist units. The Chancellor is right when he says that we protect the public and he has therefore protected police budgets. We are grateful.”

The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement and Spending Review speech can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/chancellor-george-osbornes-spending-review-and-autumn-statement-2015-speech.


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