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£100m budget cut challenge will hit crime-fighting capability warns West Mids PCC

£100m budget cut challenge will hit crime-fighting capability warns West Mids PCC

🕔18.Dec 2014

The number of police officers in the West Midlands will continue to fall after the current recruitment phase has been completed as the force struggles to identify a further £100 million in savings, reports Paul Dale.

Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said the latest cut in Home Office grant was harsher than expected and meant that the “capacity and capability” of policing would be under threat.

He called on business and community leaders to join him in a campaign aimed at convincing the Government that a fairer funding deal for the region is required.

Earlier this week Home Secretary Theresa May announced a £23 million grant cut for West Midlands Police in 2015-16, which was about £5 million more than expected.

It means that the first police recruitment exercise since 2010 will be the last for the foreseeable future.

Mr Jamieson said: “West Midlands Police faces the biggest and most unfair financial challenge of any police force in the country.  We have already made cuts of over £120 million, and following today’s announcement, further reductions well over £100 million will need to be achieved.

“Flat rate cuts to the police grant hit us harder in the West Midlands because we rely on central government funding for a bigger share of our total budget.  It seems doubly harsh that we are punished for taking the second lowest contribution from local council tax payers in the country.

“Again the Government has relied on crude, across the board cuts that are inequitable and unfair.”

The West Midlands has lost 2,070 uniformed police officers since 2010-11, almost a quarter of the establishment, with the force struggling to deliver the austerity cuts demanded by Chancellor George Osborne.

The first police recruitment exercise since 2010 got underway earlier this year following a decision to take on an additional 450 officers. More than 20,000 people applied for the jobs.

Mr Jamieson’s warning that the capability of policing will be affected by the harsh financial climate does not appear to be borne out by the crime figures. Although business crime, shoplifting and violent crime has risen since 2010, overall crime levels have remained broadly similar.

The force recorded 24,246 crimes in October 2011, against 21,095 in October 2014.

According to the Office for National Statistics, crime in England and Wales was 16 per cent down in June 2014 compared with June 2013, even though all forces are battling to cope with reduced budgets.

Mr Jamieson insisted: “Despite continued austerity, West Midlands Police has kept crime down, responded to massive operational challenges such as the NATO summit, Conservative conferences and EDL rallies, and still adapted to new priorities.

“We have also been assessed by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary as having made an excellent response to the funding challenge, which will continue.  With resources diminishing however, it is certain that, after the current recruitment, officer numbers will continue to fall.

“The capacity and capability of policing is under threat.  For that reason, I am calling on business and community leaders to join me in calling for the fairer deal for funding in the West Midlands.  We need to be given the amount the formula says that we should receive so that policing is able to continue protecting the right of people in the West Midlands to live life freely and safely.”

Jerry Blackett, Chief Executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce who said:  “We are disappointed to hear that West Midlands Police Force will be receiving a further reduction in budget. Business crime is already of great concern for local businesses.

“The Chambers’ recent survey showed that more than one in ten businesses had experienced some form of business crime in the last 12 months. The level of crime in an area, including incidences of vandalism and petty theft directly impact on decisions about business location. If we want to attract and retain businesses, and the jobs and wealth they create, our region needs a strong police force.

“We would urge the Government to fully consider the wider economic and community impact of cuts to policing before implementing these cuts. In addition, while we appreciate that this will be an extremely difficult time for West Midlands Police Force we would urge them to continue to forge and strengthen their links to the community, including businesses, to continue to improve the safety of our neighbourhoods.”

Later today, the Government is expected to set out the annual local government settlement with Birmingham again expecting an “unfair” deal as it battles with the austerity programme.

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