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Police boss demands fairer funding ‘to keep streets safe’

Police boss demands fairer funding ‘to keep streets safe’

🕔18.Jun 2015

MPs are being urged to join a cross-party campaign to secure a better funding deal for West Midlands Police.

Police Commissioner David Jamieson and chief constable Chris Sims will lobby for support at Westminster later this month, arguing that the force needs more money “to keep the streets safe”.

It was announced yesterday that the Chief Constable is to retire from the service. Mr Jamieson will be responsible for appointing his successor. 

Mr Jamieson, a former Labour minister, quoted figures from the National Audit Office showing that West Midlands Police has suffered funding cuts of 23 per cent, almost a quarter of its total budget, over the past five years.

He compared the figure with a 12 per cent reduction for Surrey Police.

The difference, according to Mr Jamieson, can be accounted for by the West Midlands’ over-reliance on Government grant. The region raises relatively little cash from council tax compared to areas like Surrey where house prices are significantly higher.

This has left the West Midlands badly exposed to the across the board cuts in Government grant imposed by Chancellor George Osborne since 2010.

Mr Jamieson said:

The National Audit Office figures have confirmed, beyond any doubt, a sad fact that I have constantly highlighted since my election – West Midlands Police is the victim of unfair funding cuts.

It gives me no pleasure to be proven correct. The latest statistics from the NAO show that the force has suffered funding cuts of 23 per cent, almost a quarter, over the past five years, while others – such as Surrey Police, with a reduction of just 12 per cent – have suffered far less drastic cutbacks.

Some forces raise more of their funds from council tax than others, partly because they have more high-value properties which are charged more. The net effect is that the cut in Government grant amounts to a bigger cut in total funding for some forces than others.

Mr Jamieson added:

The austerity cuts which we have had to put in place have hit us particularly hard. Over the past five years we have seen £120 million cuts to the force’s budget and we are expecting similar cuts in the next five.

As over 80 per cent of our costs are staff related this has translated to a loss of over 2,000 members of our workforce since 2010 and we expect the budget cuts will mean we are forced to lose another 2,500 staff.

Mr Jamieson said he was not campaigning for the total amount spent on policing across the country to increase, but he was determined that the West Midlands should get its fair share. It is possible that the Police and Crime Commissioner could act as an interim metro mayor for the proposed West Midlands combined authority if council leaders agree to adopt the elected mayor element and need to appoint an acting mayor ahead of elections. 

The region is hit doubly hard because the West Midlands is taking the second lowest contribution from local tax payers in the country. That means we are more reliant on central government funding, and so a flat rate cut to the central grant hurts us more than places with higher precepts.

Given that our crime rates are higher, with more serious threats to the community then, put simply, this is neither fair nor sensible.

He intends to raise a number of other key issues:

  • A new blueprint setting out how the West Midlands force will look, feel and operate by 2020. Improved transparency in the way the public engages with the force, and the use of technology such as body-worn cameras and hand held devices which will help officers save valuable time by accessing systems like the police national computer whilst out on the front line.
  • Child Sexual Exploitation – working with the police and local authorities across the force area to ensure a joined up approach to tackling this issue.
  • Protecting the travelling public from persistent criminals by introducing London-style banning orders on buses and trains would mean banning repeat offenders from the region’s entire public transport network.
  • Stop and Search – The West Midlands was one of the first forces to join up to a scheme to map all stop and search outcomes.  The latest figures show the number of stop and searches has been reduced whilst the outcome rate has increased.

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