Essex police commissioner calls for cuts to be focused on forces with bigger cash reserves
Police forces with lower financial reserves should see more of their government grant protected, according to the Essex Police and Crime Commissioner.
Nick Alston has been campaigning against further Home Office reductions to the money it gives each force – and has said Essex’s funding position is “perilous” from 2017.
In his latest salvo Mr Alston has argued police forces with large reserves should be made to justify them or use them.
Essex Police has the lowest reserves in the country, with £25.5million or 9% of its budget.
In comparison Warwickshire Police has the highest level with 38%, according to 2013 figures.
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Across the country there is more than £1.8billion in police reserves and 11 forces have reserves which are 25% or more of their net revenue.
Mr Alston said: “I will continue to ensure Essex Police holds a responsible level of reserves to enable the force to respond to unplanned events.
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“However, I do not think it is right I should sit on additional reserves of public money unless I have validated plans to spend those funds in the future.
“The significant differences in the funding of our police forces risks undermining the endeavours of forces such as Essex which is already one of the leanest and most efficient.
“My view is that PCCs should be required to explain their need for those reserves. The Home Secretary could decide to adjust the policing grant to any force with general reserves that cannot be justified.
“One of the consequences of some forces having large reserves is if government requires all forces to make further savings, which seems inevitable, they will be able to use reserves to protect front line policing, without seeking the maximum efficiencies which many of us are delivering.
“At the same time other forces, which do not have such large general reserves, will have to meet cuts in funding by losing further police officers and police staff from their ranks.
“Essex is firmly in this latter category, having lost more than 300 police officers and almost 200 PCSOs since 2010-11. Our situation is exacerbated by two further factors – strange anomalies in the government funding formula, and the fact Essex has the second lowest portion of council tax of any shire force in the country.”
Mr Alston has already called for the power to raise the police share of council tax, and said he wants to do so by 20% – or 50p per week for a Band D home.
“All our police forces need to be able to demonstrate how public money is being used responsibly to tackle criminality and support victims. The stakes are incredibly high,” he added.