Austerity in policing isn’t over
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, Martyn Underhill, has today joined the growing chorus of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) and Chief Constables calling on the Government to provide more central funding for policing. Dorset Police Chief Constable James Vaughan has also made a similar declaration. This is the first time that Dorset has spoken out against the impact that austerity is having on policing.
Speaking at the Dorset Police and Crime Panel, Martyn Underhill stated: “When I started my first term in Office, Dorset Police had already endured two years of central government grant freezes. Since that time the financial pressures placed on all forces continue to worsen, and the demands continue to increase.
“The government grant for local policing has not increased by a single penny in the last eight years, and as a result the budget for Dorset Police has reduced, in real-terms, by £25 million. At the same time inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, has increased by almost one-fifth.
“The small increase in force budget in recent years, 4% over six years, has been met by local taxpayers. Whilst I remain incredibly grateful for their continued support, it is time for the Government to live up to their claim that “public safety is the number one priority of the government”, a statement made by the Home Secretary to PCCs and Chief Constables less than a fortnight ago.
“We now have a Force with 500 fewer officers and staff, the lowest it’s been since the early 1980s. The demands on the police continue to grow, with no signs of abating. The increases we have seen in recorded crime, more complex crimes being committed and the need to safeguard the vulnerable in society, have all meant the police are being called upon to respond more than ever before.
“The recent budget presented by the Chancellor claimed an end to austerity; sadly this was not the case for the police. As usual we must wait until December, with our caps in hand, hoping that Government will offer a relief for policing. However, the signs look bleak, as there is already every indication that the grant freeze will continue and costs will increase.
“Going forward you can be assured that I will continue to lobby for a fair share for Dorset and ensure value from every penny. However there will be stark choices ahead and the reality is that we now have a perfect storm of:
- The lowest number of officers since 1981;
- Changing, more dangerous crime types;
- Huge increases in crime, especially violence and knife crime (40% increase in knife crime from last year);
- Huge increases in demand, especially as other services can no longer offer support and policing must fill the gap (10% increases this year alone);
- A Government that has given unfunded pay increases; and
- A Government that will not remove the burden of pension increases, which will potentially cost us over £4m a year.
“At the same time, the business case for the proposed merger with Devon & Cornwall Police demonstrated that after a decade of seeking efficiencies, there is very little left in that cupboard. The Government has made it clear that they expect me to raise precept to resolve these issues, but the £12 limit I currently have will not even cover the pay increase and pension issue, let alone improve policing in Dorset.
“It cannot be right that, for the first time ever, the Chief Constable and I will need to seriously consider which service must we stop in order to concentrate scarce resources on keeping people safe. However, that is precisely the situation in which we find ourselves.”