More officer cuts likely as Essex Police faces £46m savings target

Woman assaulted in street

Woman assaulted in street - Credit: Archant

Essex Police faces having to save £46million over the next three years – equal to cutting more than 550 officers and 500 staff.

The cost-cutting, forced by a decrease in government funding and inflation, is on top of £47.3m made in the past four years.

The figures are in a report to the Essex Police and Crime Panel, which is set to meet on Thursday.

Although the force is very unlikely to just reduce its headcount to make the savings, if it did so it would be equivalent to 557 fewer police officers, 77 fewer PCSOs and 516 fewer police staff.

However Nick Alston, police and crime commissioner for Essex, has not ruled out a reduction in officers.

He said: “I dislike illustrative figures but it is right for the panel to reflect on what it could mean.

“84% of the Essex Police spending is on staff costs, which means we are going to have to find quite a lot of the cuts from staff numbers, as has been the case over the past four years, to deliver these savings.

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“These numbers are a very worst case. I am sure with the technological redesign, estates, further work on efficiencies, a good proportion of savings will be made by other means.”

The report outlines how the force faces a large ongoing bill for maintenance of its ageing buildings and needs investment in technology, while a recent HM Inspector of Constabulary report said Essex Police was “underfunded” and had the second lowest council tax charge in the country. If it had the average precept of other similar-sized forces it would have an additional annual income of £16.4m.

Mr Alston said: “It is already an efficient force which does present a challenge, we have quite limited reserves, and we have already deeply collaborated with Kent Police. We also have a very low council tax precept and government has capped it to a small rise.

“This all adds to the complexity of what we have to do. There will be some very hard choices as we trim policing.

“Its estates have been neglected and we have a lot of buildings which are more than 100 years old. This is disgraceful, and we don’t need so many or such old buildings to deliver modern policing.

“But that in itself is challenging as we can’t just dip into our reserves to support a major capital programme.

“Are there borrowing options? I don’t think the government will lend but we could borrow elsewhere – it is one of the things we must look at.

“I don’t want to tax people. We have all come through a tough time in the past years, and even if I put it up by £2-3 per tax payer I would regret doing that.”

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