Police civilian jobs under threat
SUFFOLK police is reviewing hundreds of civilian posts at the force as it attempts to plug an expected £6million hole in its budget.Christine Laverock, chair of Suffolk Police Authority, said "unpalatable" choices would have to be made to make savings in an extremely tight financial situation.
By Jonathan Barnes
SUFFOLK police is reviewing hundreds of civilian posts at the force as it attempts to plug an expected £6million hole in its budget.
Christine Laverock, chair of Suffolk Police Authority, said "unpalatable" choices would have to be made to make savings in an extremely tight financial situation.
She added the force would be extremely reluctant to cut the number of police officers but said a review of civilian posts, which number 862 in Suffolk, was ongoing.
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"We are in a really difficult position and are very anxious about the decisions we will have to make," said Mrs Laverock.
The expected shortfall comes through indications of next year's Government grant and a bid to keep rises in the force's share of council tax bills as low as possible.
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"This did not come as a surprise - we knew we were in for a difficult year," said Mrs Laverock.
"We will have to balance the books as well as providing a quality service and we are supporting the Chief Constable in his review of staffing posts to see if any savings can be made."
She said initial findings of the review did not find huge savings that could be made and added there would be some "not very palatable" options discussed at next month's authority meeting.
"We don't want to see police officers cut - we have just recruited 200 new officers and we don't want to see numbers diminish. But that is by far the biggest proportion of the budget, so these are not easy times.
"We are going to look very carefully at police staff posts - civilian employees - and any part of the budget we can consider cutting back or eliminating altogether."
She said it was too early to say what changes could be made but added: "We have always run in a very efficient way and I don't believe there is too much slack in the system."
Mrs Laverock was speaking after the Conservative Party claimed holes in police authorities' budgets could lead to cutbacks, and blamed Government targets and bureaucracy.
Shadow home secretary David Davis said several police authorities in England may be short of funding in the next financial year, with Kent facing a £19m deficit and Norfolk £7.8m.
Mr Davis told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "We looked around the country and we found a large number of police authorities saying they were going to face difficulties next year.
"All of them are going to try to protect the number of policemen they have got but, if they lay off head office staff, what would happen is more policemen being pulled back into head offices and doing bureaucratic things.
"That is completely at odds with the approach the Government says it was intending to undertake, and actually will lead to fewer policemen on the beat, and therefore a bigger risk of crime for the country."
The Association of Police Authorities (APA) said the Tory figures "sound too pessimistic" but warned of "a major funding gap" which could affect frontline policing.
Home Secretary David Blunkett said police numbers have risen to record levels - up 10,000 in two years - and as a result of this year's spending review the number of Community Support Officers was set to top 20,000.
"When Michael Howard was Home Secretary he promised to increase police numbers but then cut them by 1,132," he said.
"Today's Conservatives are no different. They say they will deliver more police but the reality is that they are committed to cutting £1.6 billion from the Home Office budget."