• Devon and Cornwall Police has to dip into reserves to survive

    2nd February 2014 | News | Claire
  • Every time I hear that the police are under huge financial pressures I remember how much this government spent on the elections of political police and crime commissioners about two years ago – a scandalous £70m. And how much conservative, Mr Hogg, has cost, with his ballooning staff bill…..

    The election turnout across Devon and Cornwall was a tiny 14 per cent.

    Here’s the story in yesterday’s Western Morning News – http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/Frontline-policing-propped-15-million-reserves/story-20537486-detail/story.html ……………………………..

    The long-term strength of frontline policing in Devon and Cornwall will only be maintained by spending more than £15 million from reserves, a new report has revealed.

    Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Hogg is due to present his budget proposals – including a 2% rise in the force’s share of council tax bills next year – to his scrutiny board next week.

    Detailed financial papers released ahead of the meeting revealed Mr Hogg is committed to keeping police numbers at just over 3,000 – the minimum some senior officers believe is needed to effectively cover the two counties.

    Mr Hogg also wants to keep the force’s current complement of 360 police and community support officers (PCSOs) although their position is now under review.

    But the four-year budget plan is riddled with uncertainty over future funding levels with the force potentially having to save £27.8 million between 2014-15 and 2017-18.

    That comes on top of the £40 million the police force has had to save because of Government budget cuts in the last four years – cuts which have seen police numbers fall by 400 with a similar number of civilians losing their jobs.

    “Nibbling at the edges will no longer achieve the savings required – we have to be more radical and more transformational,” Mr Hogg wrote on his blog.

    “This is why we have started to scope out a strategic alliance with Dorset Police and will undertake a fundamental review, amongst others, of the police estate.

    “I am committed to working with the chief constable on delivering this budget reduction whilst focused on the primary goal of maintaining high quality policing services.”

    The budget documents show Mr Hogg intends to bolster reserves by £3.7 million in the next two financial years, topping up the fund to £26.7 million.

    But spending from reserves is forecast to leap to £6.9 million in 2016-17 and then £8.5 million in 2017-18 to keep the force on an even keel.

    For the second year in a row Mr Hogg is proposing to reject the Government’s offer of a 1% grant in exchange for a council tax freeze saying it would end in a budget loss in 2016-17 of £1.8 million and threaten his 3,000 officer target.

    Next year, however, £1 million will be saved on PCSOs with their numbers being run down from an artificial high of 384 to 360.

    “In consultation with the chief constable, I have budgeted to continue to maintain officer numbers above 3,000 over the next four years,” Mr Hogg said in the report.

    “As the force develops its workforce plan and operating model, it is clear that the officers we have remaining will undertake an increasingly multifunctional role.

    “Individual officers, especially in our more rural areas, will undertake a range of investigation, neighbourhood and patrol functions.”

    He added: “There will be other opportunities to reduce budgets, such as our work with Dorset Police and through local partnerships that offer opportunities for sharing services.

    “We will also be working to significantly reduce demand on our services – through better working with mental health, pooling budgets and effective commissioning – which means that we can look again at overall police officer numbers in the future.”

    Police staff face yet more uncertainty with 97 posts, from 1,800, expected to be cut in the next two years. By then almost one-in-four (23%) of civilian posts will have been lost since 2010.

    The force has already announced it is conducting a number of reviews with Deputy Chief Constable Bill Skelly a reduction in police support staff posts was “inevitable”.

    Last week the force informed staff in police enquiry offices, crime investigation, criminal justice, custody and firearms licensing, that their posts were under review.

    Savings from non-staff budgets over the next two years are estimated at £3.7 million including almost £1 million from IT, £590,000 in reduced building costs, and £558,000 through collaboration with other forces in the South West.

    If approved, the 2% increase in police precept would see the bill for a Band D property rise by £3.26 a year to £166.18.

    The budget will be presented to member of the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Panel when it meets in Plymouth next Friday.