Police plea for more cash

A TOP-level Suffolk police delegation is due to meet a senior government minister today amid fears over the force's finances.

Colin Adwent

A TOP-level Suffolk police delegation is due to meet a senior government minister today amid fears over the force's finances.

Gulshan Kayembe, chair of the county's police authority, and chief constable Simon Ash are to discuss the cash-strapped constabulary's plight with Vernon Coaker MP, minister of state for policing.

Suffolk's assistant chief officer Phillip Clayton and police authority treasurer Chris Bland are also scheduled to attend the meeting at the Home Office in London.

The quartet are seeking to persuade Mr Coaker that the county faces a bleak future for law and order if its annual grants do not sustain the service it currently provides.

It is hoped the begging-bowl diplomacy will lead to an upward review of the 2.5 per cent increase in funding for the new financial year.

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Mrs Kayembe said: “A lot of our data shows we are not very well funded in comparison to other places and also in terms of the collection of local taxes.

“The meeting is really to ask why the funding is so low. The average increase forces received last year was 2.7%. Ours was among the lowest at 2.5%.”

Within that figure Suffolk has to account for the national pay rise to police officers and staff of 2.63%.

Mrs Kayembe said 80% of Suffolk Constabulary's financial resources are spent on wages and it would be a success if today's lobbying led to the level of funding being adjusted to the percentage of the pay rise.

She added: “I don't want to scaremonger but if you are lowly funded and continue to be lowly funded, the concern is it will begin to have an impact on performance.”

In February Mrs Kayembe warned the unprecedented financial challenges facing Suffolk were unsustainable if funding was not addressed.

Those in charge of policing the county have already brought in a raft of cost-cutting measures to make the constabulary leaner. More efficiencies are also being planned.

However, among many there is a feeling that the county is being treated as a poor relation when viewed in the context of other areas of a comparable size.

Mrs Kayembe said: “We are still really at the bottom among the forces that are not dissimilar to our level of policing challenges and who are getting more money per head of population.

“The way the formula (for funding) works takes account of areas of deprivation for example, areas were there are a high proportion of people and where there are high urban areas. Those sort of things count against us.

“If you look at other similar forces West Mercia is getting �100.56 per head of population, whereas in Suffolk we get around �98 per head of population for our police grant.”

A spokeswoman for Suffolk police said they were still waiting to hear whether they will get back the �160,000 paid out for round-the-clock security during prime minister Gordon Brown's holiday in Southwold last summer.