Exclusive: Region’s police face a £100m financial black hole

Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire Mark Burns-Williamson
Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire Mark Burns-Williamson
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POLICE forces in Yorkshire and the Humber will have to find savings of more than £100m by 2018 as they struggle to cope with the combination of rising costs and cuts to Government funding.

Despite already making significant savings, police and crime commissioners in the region

face major financial shortfalls, analysis by the Yorkshire Post has revealed.

Official figures show that Yorkshire forces have already lost more than 1,000 police officers and almost 800 police staff since 2010.

The Government insists its police reforms are working but rank and file police officers in the region’s four forces fear further cuts will hamper their ability to tackle crime.

Shadow Policing Minister David Hansen said: “These reckless cuts risk compromising public safety. Already we’re seeing the effects with recent figures exposing a huge rise in the number of offenders in Yorkshire committing serious violent crimes who are now escaping without so much as a caution.

“If this Tory-led government takes another £100m out of Yorkshire’s police coffers in the next five years I have deep concerns that the police will find it increasingly impossible to do their job effectively.”

West Yorkshire Police, which has taken £64m out of its annual costs in the past two years, will have to plug a further budget black hole of £66m by 2016/17 to balance its books.

The force is expecting to save £54m over this period due to staff leaving and not being replaced but admits “additional reductions” will be needed.

Crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson raised the police force’s portion of council of tax by 3.8 per cent earlier this year, the highest amount allowed, to pay for 44 new officers.

He said: “I have delivered on my election pledge to protect neighbourhood policing and I am pleased the councils have agreed to continue part-funding of

PCSOs for the year ahead, but the government cuts mean tough decisions going forward.

“I have consulted and continue to consult with communities on their priorities and I want to keep our bobbies on the beat but find ways to be smarter about the how policing services are delivered in our local areas.”

In West Yorkshire funding cuts between 2010/11 and 2016/17 are expected to amount to £76.5m.

Police commissioners also have to cope with rising energy, fuel and pay costs. Pension reforms mean the force will have to pay an extra £9.4m a year in National Insurance by 2016/17.

Jon Christopher of West Yorkshire’s Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said: “As the cuts continue, and I think they will continue for many years to come, front line services will suffer.

“It is up to the force to keep that suffering to a minimum. It is not an easy thing to do.

“The force is going to have to restructure to cope with reductions in man-power at every level. There are an awful lot of factors to consider with service delivery and hopefully it won’t bite straight away.

“The projected number of officers is expected to go down in the next two or three years and we may see a drop off in service delivery. The new Chief Constable Mark Gilmore is acutely aware he has targets to meet.”

North Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner has budgeted for a “worst-case scenario” of a £14m budget gap by 2016/17 while her counterpart in South Yorkshire, Shaun Wright, has identified a £16.9m funding gap for the next five years.

The Humberside police and crime commissioner is forecasting an £11m shortfall over the next five years, even accounting for annual two per cent rises in the police precept on council tax bills, existing planned savings of £10m and a further £10m injection from its reserves.

However, Matthew Grove insisted savings could be found without reducing the service offered to the public.

He said: “The situation we are in is no longer about trimming budgets, it is about a fundamental reappraisal of how the Humberside force operates so that we can make savings, with the minimum impact on front line services.

“The challenges we face are significant, but we have every confidence we can deliver a sustainable, efficient and effective police service with the resources that we have available.”

Forces across the country have made millions of pounds of savings since 2010 when Chancellor George Osborne announced plans to cut police spending by four per cent each year.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “Police reforms are working and crime is falling.”