Police leader's budget warning

By James HoreTHE man in charge of the region's biggest police authority has warned of the consequences of the Government's financial squeeze on forces' budgets.

By James Hore

THE man in charge of the region's biggest police authority has warned of the consequences of the Government's financial squeeze on forces' budgets.

Robert Chambers, the chairman of Essex Police Authority, said he was hoping to keep next year's council tax increase at 3%.

But he warned council tax could well have to rise in the following year to address a funding shortfall.


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“I think all police authorities are being squeezed and are being asked to make quite severe efficiency savings,” said Mr Chambers.

“No police authority wants to cut frontline policing and in Essex there is no way we will cut frontline policing - in fact we want to increase it.”

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He added: “With regards to budgets this year, if an authority wanted to go above 5%, then I think the Government would cap them.

“But for the year after, if I was to be re-elected by the public, I would expect that after a General Election, whichever party was to win, I would think they would be turning the screw on police authorities as any new Government would have four years to fiddle about with things.”

Mr Chambers said the police authority's budget for 2005/06 would be a “neutral” one, reflecting the costs of increasing wages.

But he added Essex Police would be needing an extra £8million per year once they had upgraded their communications - a change that could mean asking for 15% more in council tax in 2006/07.

“However, I would hope we would be able to make substantial savings in other areas,” said Mr Chambers.

He added if the police authority was to put council tax up, it would have to be sure the public was satisfied with how the money was to be used.

james.hore@eadt.co.uk

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