Will you help me fund extra officers for Dorset?
Every year, I am required by law to set a budget for Dorset Police, and every year to support my decision-making I ask the people of Dorset to think about the level of the precept – the part of the council tax bill that pays for policing.
This year is unlike any that I, or my colleagues in the Force, have ever known.
Because of the unusual timing of the General Election, the Government’s annual funding settlement will be announced far later than usual.
This means that, with just a few weeks to go before the Force’s budget must be confirmed, the Chief Constable and I still don’t know how much central funding will be provided by this settlement, which makes up just over half of the Force’s budget.
Rather than wait for the settlement to be announced, and then rush this important piece of work through at a later date, I am taking a more considered approach in asking for what the Force requires now.
That is why, in the face of this uncertainty, I am asking for an additional £1.25 a month and have launched an online survey to ask for residents' views. This will deliver a prudent budget for Dorset Police and will achieve our ambitions of recruiting an extra 50 officers.
We have all heard the announcements of extra police officers. This is a great opportunity for the Force and I know from talking to people across Dorset for the past eight years that recruiting additional officers is something that’s very important to you.
But recruiting and training additional officers comes with a significant extra cost, and it’s essential we make sure the Force can meet this.
Dorset Police, along with forces across the country, continues to be affected by the impact of nine years of austerity. As well as real-terms cuts to funding, there have been cost increases to UK policing, including nationally agreed salary increases and pension liabilities.
The levels of demand faced by the police have also soared.
We’ve seen an 11% increase in reported crime across Dorset, a 14% increase in 999 calls and a 15% increase in reports of serious sexual offences. Add to that the 24,500 hours patrol officers spent dealing with missing persons this year and you will see just how demand is increasing across the board.
Anyone who followed this summer’s Tweetathon – in which Dorset Police tweeted every single 999 and 101 call that came into its control room – got an idea of the demands facing even a relatively small force like ours. The calls, on average at least one every two minutes – ranged from reports of a man being stabbed in the leg, to domestic abuse, dangerous drivers, anti-social behaviour and missing people.
Tellingly, there were many calls involving social care and mental health issues – demonstrating how often the police now have to pick up the pieces and get involved in incidents which would be far better handled by other agencies who have also had their funding cut in recent years.
For all of these reasons, in order to enable Dorset Police to maintain its current service, have the capacity to invest in extra officers, and ensure they can protect the county’s residents from emerging risks, I am asking for an additional £1.25 a month.
Thank you for taking the time to complete the survey – your opinion is very much valued.