Inspectors praise police over budget cut progress

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INSPECTORS who criticised two Yorkshire police forces for their failure to respond to Government budget cuts now say bosses have “made progress” and now have a plan on how the money will be saved.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary singled out West Yorkshire Police and South Yorkshire among five forces in the country in July and said they had not taken the opportunity to transform the way they do business.

The inspectorate said both Yorkshire forces will struggle to cope with further budget cuts in coming years because they have relied too much on making short-term savings.

Since re-visiting the forces last month, the watchdog has revealed that West Yorkshire, which needs to save £143m between 2010 and 2017, and South Yorkshire, have both “made progress”.

It said in a statement: “West Yorkshire Police has developed a plan which details how it will make the savings it needs to by March 2015, and how it will restructure to meet future budget requirements and improve performance, while South Yorkshire Police is working on a similar plan.”

West Yorkshire Police this year launched its “programme of change” in a bid to save millions per year by restructuring the force.

Mark Burns-Williamson, the county’s police and crime commissioner, said: “We have been reviewing every part of the police service and by working smarter but also smarter together with other forces we have made significant savings.

“HMIC had told us that we had not identified sufficient savings to close the funding gap, but we have now achieved that following some rigorous work.

“We have gone from potentially using £31m of reserves in July to balance the books, to just £7m now by looking at where we spend that money and how.

“The gap has been closed without significantly affecting frontline policing.”

Chief constable Mark Gilmore said the force still had a “significant way to go” but that “the early signs are encouraging”.

The HMIC report said at the time of inspection that South Yorkshire Police “still had no plans” to find the £9.6m needed to close the remaining funding gap while West Yorkshire had responded “poorly” to significant challenges in making the £96m in savings needed over four years.

A HMIC spokeswoman said inspectors will visit both forces again in the summer as part of their checks on all forces.