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Police chief keeping fingers crossed over Government funding announcement

Police chief keeping fingers crossed over Government funding announcement

🕔21.Jul 2015

West Midlands Police will discover soon whether it is to get extra funding after five years of cuts, reports Paul Dale.

The Government has announced it is to consult on details of a new fairer funding formula to allocate annual grant payments to police forces in England and Wales.

Police Minister Mike Penning told MPs in a written ministerial statement today he wanted to put finances for the country’s 43 police forces on a sustainable long-term basis. He said:

The current model for allocating police funding, the Police Allocation Formula (PAF), is complex, opaque and out of date. Following a comprehensive review of the PAF by the Home Office, the Government believes that the formula should be replaced by a simplified model as soon as it is appropriate to do so. This consultation seeks views on the principles underpinning this model, including around transitional arrangements with a view to implementation for the 2016-17 financial year.

The proposed new model would use population levels, the underlying characteristics of that population and environmental characteristics to determine how money is allocated, Mr Pennington said.

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson is keeping his fingers crossed for a favourable deal, but has warned the region may suffer yet more financial hardship.

The amount of money the force receives from the Home Office has been cut by almost a quarter since 2010 and is on course to be cut by more than 40 per cent by 2020.

At least 2,500 police officers and staff are set to be lost over the next four years as the force tries to save a further £120 million.

Mr Jamieson said he had been told the new formula could increase or decrease funding for individual forces by up to 20 per cent.

At the moment the West Midlands receives £43 million a year less than the formula says it should get. This is because the system has “floors and ceilings” built into it to smooth out gains and losses.

The region misses out because it is far more reliant on Government grant than wealthier areas in the south where more income comes from council tax.

Mr Jamieson said:

We have a five year plan to create a modern police force, looking at priorities ruthlessly to decide what is important and what isn’t.

It’s not a doom and gloom model. It’s about how we do it with less money.

But if we are hit again by the new formula with more budget cuts then we are into uncharted territory.

The National Audit Office reported recently that West Midlands Police had suffered funding cuts of 23 per cent, almost a quarter, over the past five years while others had suffered less drastic cuts. Funding for Surrey Police has fallen by just 12 per cent over the same period.

Mr Jamieson said:

West Midlands Police gets £43 million a year less than the Government’s own formula says that the force should receive. It is an issue I have been campaigning on and will continue to do so in the coming months.

In the next few weeks I will be meeting with MPs from across the political spectrum as part of my cross-party campaign on this issue.

The region is hit doubly hard because the West Midlands is taking the second lowest contribution from local taxpayers 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.

While central government provides 83 per cent of the West Midlands Police budget, for higher council tax forces this is as low as 46 per cent. For example, Surrey Police’s budget will fall by just 12 per cent, but low tax West Midlands will lose 23 per cent.

Given that our crime rates are higher with more serious threats to the community this simply isn’t fair or sensible.

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