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‘Stop throwing cash at Surrey and give West Midlands police a fair deal’

‘Stop throwing cash at Surrey and give West Midlands police a fair deal’

🕔26.Nov 2012

Police Commissioner Bob Jones is involved in a race against time in an attempt to convince the Government to protect the West Midlands force from further damaging spending cuts.

Mr Jones, who became PCC a fortnight ago, has launched a Fair Funding campaign which seeks to make the case that the West Midlands is delivering substantially more than its share of Chancellor George Osborne’s austerity cuts.

And Mr Jones, a former Labour councillor, made no secret of the fact that his strategy is aimed at “wealthy” areas in the south of England like Surrey, where he believes the police force has been protected from harsh cash cuts at the expense of the West Midlands.

The Government’s formula grant approach to police force funding meant that Surrey, an area of relatively low crime, had been given special protection from cuts in grant, Mr Jones said.

The Commissioner said he accepted that the campaign to convince Mr Osborne of the West Midlands’ case had come late in the day.

Mr Osborne is due to deliver his Autumn Statement setting out spending plans on December 5 and will give detailed announcements of grant funding for police forces on December 19.

Since 2011-12, the West Midlands force has lost about £100 million in government grant – equivalent to about 20 per cent of the total budget. During that period the force has been forced to identify ways to cut its budget by £126 million.

During the same period, Surrey’s budget has been reduced by about six per cent.

Further proposed changes to grant allocation, which Mr Jones hopes the Chancellor will abandon, could cost the West Midlands another £2 million and result in the loss of 35 Police Community Support Officers as well as cuts to the drugs intervention team.

West Midlands Police has had a policy of non-recruitment for almost four years. During that time, 1,000 police officers have lost their jobs and 1,150 civilian staff.

Mr Jones said he hoped to start recruiting police officers again in 2013-14, but would not be able to do so if the Chancellor imposed fresh austerity cuts on the force.

He said: “If we get the wrong settlement from the Chancellor it will undoubtedly damage the long term prospects of the force. Even if we get out full grant entitlement under the formula, we would still be delivering bigger cuts than Surry.

“If there is no movement from the Chancellor then money currently being spent in the West Midlands will to areas like Surrey and that will mean we lose the equivalent of 35 PCSOs while Surrey gets funding for an additional six PCSOs.”

Mr Jones said he had been told by former Police Minister Nick Herbert that a ceiling had to be imposed on grants given to metropolitan policing areas like the West Midlands in order to placate Surrey and other forces in the south of the country.

“It’s been a longstanding injustice that we haven’t received the money that the Government’s own formula says we should receive.”

West Midlands Chief Constable Chris Sims said he was fully behind the commissioner’s action.

Mr Sims said: “The issue has been that we haven’t received the full allocation of grant because of mechanisms applied to the formula to ensure that other forces get a higher proportion of grant than the formula would otherwise give to them.

“I have to say that seems grossly unfair in the way it is being applied.”



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