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Chancellor clobbers police with another cash cosh

Chancellor clobbers police with another cash cosh

🕔05.Dec 2012

West Midlands Police may have to find a further £24 million in Government-imposed cuts over the next two years following Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement.

The figure – a 20 per cent increase on a £126 million cuts package already in place – is likely to put paid to plans by Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Bob Jones to begin recruiting police officers for the first time in four years.

Mr Jones reacted with dismay to Mr Osborne’s announcement in the House of Commons, in which plans were outlined to cut Home Office spending by a further one per cent next year and potentially by two per cent in 2014-15.

Mr Osborne told MPs he would extend his austerity plans until 2017-18. Measures to tackle the country’s debts needed to be done in “a way that is fair”, he insisted.

West Midlands chief constable Chris Sims and the PCC must wait until the fine print of the Chancellor’s statement is released on December 19. Mr Osborne, who is expected to give details of grant settlements for police forces, has been lobbied by the West Midlands force for a “fairer” deal.

Both Mr Sims and Mr Jones have taken the Government to task over a damping mechanism which has the effect of protecting police forces in wealthier areas like the south of England from very large cuts in grant.

The West Midlands force claims the damping mechanism means it is receiving £23 million a year less than the Government’s own grant formula says it needs. However, Surrey and other police forces in the South-east have also complained to the Home Secretary about “unfair” allocation of grants to them.

Mr Jones said: “We could be trying to find up to an additional £10 million in cuts next year, as well as the £24 million we already have to save. The threat that we may have to cut the budget by £30 million or more next year is a huge challenge.

“I am disappointed that the Chancellor has not protected policing from further reductions, as has been the case for defence, education and health spending.

“The West Midlands has already been dealt cuts of £126 million over four years. If the reductions to Home Office budgets are passed on to police forces over the next two years, the saving target rises to £136 million if next year’s cuts are passed on to us, and could reach £150 million over the four years if the second year’s cuts are passed to us too.

“Police numbers have fallen by over a thousand already and civilian staff numbers by over 1,200. Further cuts could jeopardise plans to restart recruitment, or end compulsory retirement of officers.”

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