Police cut car use due to fuel costs

HIGH fuel costs have caused Suffolk police to dramatically cut back on vehicle use to save money, it has emerged.

Jonathan Barnes

HIGH fuel costs have caused Suffolk police to dramatically cut back on vehicle use to save money, it has emerged.

The force has taken steps to cut fuel usage due to soaring prices and has overseen a reduction of 6% so far this year - cutting tens of thousands of miles from the fuel bill.

But chief officers are warning the fuel budget will still be overspent by £310,000 - rising to £370,000 when helicopter fuel costs are added.

It will be the main cause of an expected £528,000 black hole in the force's overall budget for 2008-9.

Suffolk Police Authority is conducting a “thorough” review of all vehicle use to try and find further savings.

Most Read

The force currently has more than 470 vehicles and every year police officers and staff travel more than seven million miles.

Rising fuel costs were largely blamed for a £496,000 black hole in the 2007-8 budget, and pump prices have risen by 29% for diesel and 21% for unleaded petrol in a year, authority members have been told.

Suffolk police said it had taken a number of steps to reduce fuel costs, including:

n Encouraging car sharing and combining short journeys

n Improving driver behaviour

n Removing any unnecessary equipment in vehicles to increase fuel economy

n Asking officers to refuel at the lowest-priced retail outlet where possible

n Switching to more diesel vehicles, which offer more miles per gallon

But Matt Gould, chairman of Suffolk Police Federation, said officers had not been given instructions to keep mileage down.

Tim Yeo, Conservative MP for Suffolk South, said: “This serves as a reminder that high fuel costs have consequences far beyond hitting people's pockets - even things such as police operational decisions can be affected, not just family budgets and business costs.

“The difficulty for the police is how can you make savings without having any effect on solving and preventing crime?”

The mileage crackdown comes amid an increasingly tight financial situation for the constabulary. Police authority members will discuss the financial situation on Friday and will be told much of the current overspending is beyond the force's control.

Police expect an overspend of up to £400,000 for increased call-outs for medical assistance for suspects kept in custody.

Members will be told that almost £300,000 of forecast staff salary savings had not materialised because of higher overtime and agency costs.

And the cost of the force's new helicopter - £4.6million - was £300,000 more than expected because of fluctuation in the Sterling/Euro exchange rate.

Chief Constable Simon Ash is due to give the meeting an update about plans to remedy the financial situation.

But, in the report going before authority members, Assistant Chief Officer Philip Clayton has warned the force's contingency fund was “largely committed” and that “problems associated with identifying emergency savings should not be underestimated”.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter