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New cash crisis for West Midlands Police

New cash crisis for West Midlands Police

🕔22.Oct 2012

The West Midlands’ first Police and Crime Commissioner could face an immediate £26 million black hole in the force budget, making yet more spending cuts highly likely.

Although the police authority has already identified £112 million in austerity savings by 2015, with the loss of 1,000 front-line officers, the body’s chairman has warned of more crippling financial pressure from a range of Government measures.

Bishop Derek Webley, who is an Independent candidate for Police Commissioner, has written to all West Midlands MPs asking for their support in lobbying Policing Minister Nick Herbert.

The financial issues identified by Mr Webley are:

  • Changes to the grant funding formula will leave the West Midlands £23 million worse off.
  • Cuts in funding for Police Community Support Officers will cost £1 million.
  • Government plans to localise council tax benefit will require the force to find £2 million, or increase the precept it charges to local authorities by three per cent.
  • Home Office refusal to fully reimburse the cost of policing the Conservative conference in Birmingham will cost the force £500,000.

Mr Webley said in his letter: “Notwithstanding the authority’s long running concerns about grant damping, the changes to PCSO funding, the decisions on special grant for policing party conferences and the financial implications of the decision to localise support for council tax, these together with a range of uncertainties about future funding levels generally, will create significant challenges when the newly elected PCC takes up office in November.

“The Police Authority is committed to leaving the best possible legacy for the PCC and it is for that reason, and to continue to argue for fairer shares of the national policing cake for your constituents, that I am asking for your support.”

By far the largest chunk of the extra money to be found, £23 million, is the result of controversial moves by the coalition government to impose ‘floors and ceilings’ on grant allocation for police forces in England and Wales.

The changes, known as grant damping, have the effect of protecting rural forces at the expense of urban areas like the West Midlands. Critics claim the system will reward largely Tory-voting areas at the expense of Labour-run cities.

The Police Commissioner, who will be elected on November 15, will take over from the police authority with responsibility for setting the force budget. A cut of £26 million is roughly equivalent to salaries for about 600 police officers.

 

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