Police forces receive smallest rises

POLICE authorities in Suffolk and Essex are to receive an increase of just 3.2% in Government funding next year - the lowest rises handed out.The settlement, which was announced yesterday by Home Office minister Hazel Blears, compares to an average national rise of 5%.

POLICE authorities in Suffolk and Essex are to receive an increase of just 3.2% in Government funding next year - the lowest rises handed out.

The settlement, which was announced yesterday by Home Office minister Hazel Blears, compares to an average national rise of 5%.

It means that Suffolk will see its level of funding rise from £63.3m in 2005/6 to £65.3m in 2006/07 and Essex from £157.7m in 2005/6 to £162.8m in 2006/07.

Elsewhere in East Anglia the 2006/07 settlement was more generous with a 3.3% rise in Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire (£73.8m and 110.5m), 4% increase in Bedfordshire (£64m) and a 4.3% hike in Norfolk (£80.6m).


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Last night police bosses refused to be drawn on what type of impact the settlement would have on any potential rises in council tax.

Suffolk Police Authority vice-chairman David Wood said: “Police funding is a complex matter and at this stage we have not had the opportunity to study the figures in detail - and we still await information about additional grants for specific projects.

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“However, now that we have the provisional settlement we can begin the process of examining how it will affect budget and council tax levels for next year.”

Police in Essex hit out at the Government funding proposals, claiming the figures supplied by the Home Office were incorrect.

The Home Office last night confirmed Essex Police will get £162 million from the Government next year - an increase of 3.2% on this year's adjusted figure of £157 million figure.

The reason the figure has been adjusted is that the Home Office is giving the money in a different way this year, and the new funding method lies at the heart of Essex Police's concerns.

Rather than being given a simple lump sum as they did this year, next year's funding will include a general grant and a number of grants for specific areas of policing such as neighbourhood policing, pension payments and counter terrorism.

But Robert Chambers, chairman of Essex Police Authority, said funding from the Government will give Essex Police “very little room for manoeuvre”.

“It is a bit disappointing when you consider that 84% of police funding is made up of staff and officer salaries. That leaves you with just 16% to fund everything else. And when you take into account annual pay increases you are left with just 2% which leaves no leeway really.”

It means the force would struggle to meet the extra recruitment targets, particular for community support officers, called for by the Government.

He added: “This is not the final settlement so we are hoping that there could be changes to this in the final one.”

A spokeswoman for Essex Police said urgent requests for more information had been lodged with the Home Office because, she said, the Essex force did not believe the “information is right”.

She said: “We feel we need more information from the Government so that we know in cash terms exactly what we are getting. We have pressed the Government for more details. A rise of 3.2% would be less than last year.

“We are in discussions with them and our key priority at the moment is to avoid putting additional burdens on the taxpayer. We would continue to lobby the Government if that was the case.”

But a spokesman for the Home Office said: “They are now getting their money in a different way, but the funding is increasing by 3.2 per cent.”

The Government funding for 2007/08 was also announced with both Suffolk and Essex receiving a 3.7% increase on this year which will result in a rise to £67.7m and £168.8m respectively.

On average the Home Office has increased funding by 5% for 2006/07 and by 4.5% in 2007/08 - a total of £982m in the next two years.

Mrs Blears said: “Law and order is a top priority for the Government. Our investment has helped to expand local policing, reduce crime and make our communities safer.

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