Police warning on impact of deep cuts

A DEPUTY police chief will today warn of the threat to frontline services in Suffolk as the county’s force faces budget cuts of up to 20% over the next three years.

Plans for additional cost-cutting measures this year are due to go before the county’s police authority today but it is the prospect of further financial constraints in future that is causing greater concern.

The potential impact of future budget cuts is outlined in a report prepared for police authority committee members by Suffolk’s deputy chief constable Jacqui Cheer.

In the report, Ms Cheer warns that the force, having already made massive savings, would find it increasingly difficult to spare frontline services if it was required to find additional significant savings.

The Home Office requires Suffolk Constabulary to make savings of �1.16million in this financial year’s budget. During the latest three years the force has made �12m in savings.

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The budget for 2010/11 is �113.5m but the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review is expected to make further cuts.

In her report, Ms Cheer says that, based on the current information, the constabulary should be planning for potential reductions of between 10% and 20% over the three years from 2011/12.

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She also warns there are significant risks to the delivery of service presented by such reductions.

More than 80% of its current budget relates to human resources, and Suffolk is already one of the lowest cost forces in England and Wales per head of population. This year’s savings include freezing the recruitment of police officers, with no further intakes after September, not filling vacant police staff posts and reducing extra money for additional newsletters for the public.

Ms Cheer said: “This round of reductions is only the start of what will become a continuous process of generating significant savings over at least the next three years.

“To prepare for this, the authority, along with the constabulary, will be developing plans over the coming months for budget reductions.

“All authorities are facing a similar challenge. But in Suffolk this challenge will be particularly acute as we are already the third lowest-cost police service in the country, receive the lowest level of government grant and have been through extensive restructuring programmes to drive out efficiencies of more than �16m over the last 10 years.”

Colin Spence, chairman of Suffolk Police Authority, said: “These are extremely difficult times and we are very aware that continuing to provide the high standard of service on which we pride ourselves is going to become more difficult.

“We are, however, doing our utmost to minimise the impact that these significant reductions will have upon service delivery and to ensure that we provide the best level of policing possible to the people of Suffolk.”

Matt Gould, chairman of the Suffolk Police Federation, warned the cuts would mean job losses.

“It is hard to know the implications at this stage, they will be discussed at the meeting.

“All I can say is bearing in mind the vast majority of the budget is for staff and officers pay and positions we can only assume there will be job losses. That will be detrimental to all concerned including the public.”

Last year a delegation from Suffolk Constabulary, including Chief Constable Simon Ash, went to meet Policing Minister Vernon Coaker in London to express their concerns about the impact of this year’s budget cuts.

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