Crime tsar threatens legal action over Yorkshire police cuts

A group of police and crime commissioners, including North Yorkshire’s, are threatening to take legal action against the Government over funding reforms that could see millions of pounds a year cut from their forces’ budgets, The Yorkshire Post can reveal.

Julia Mulligan says changes to the way core police funding is calculated will mean North Yorkshire Police will lose a further £16 million on top of the £20 million it has to save over four years.

She has joined with other PCCs expected to lose out as part of the new arrangements in writing to Policing Minister Mike Penning, urging him to look again at the criteria used to allocate funds.

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Mrs Mulligan’s force is already expecting to shed eight per cent of its officers in the next two-and-a-half years to meet savings targets, cuts the Police Federation says will put the force back by two decades.

She said the affected forces were prepared to consider taking legal action if the Government was “not willing to listen to our concerns”.

On October 8, Mr Penning wrote to all chief constables and PCCs with details of revised plans to the formula used to allocate central government police grants.

According to analysis by the website Police Professional, 11 forces would lose out on funding under the new arrangements, while four, including Humberside Police, would be unaffected and the remainder would see increases if overall levels of funding remain the same as last year.

Police and crime commissioners from the majority of the 11 forces who are due to lose out have written to the Government over the issue.

Mrs Mulligan said geographically larger forces such as North Yorkshire, Cumbria and Lancashire would be badly affected as they would no longer be compensated for the large areas officers have to cover.

PCCs also say funding will now be based on an area’s permanent population and that this penalises tourism-heavy counties such as North Yorkshire, which sees millions of visitors a year.

Mrs Mulligan told The Yorkshire Post: “The biggest issue we have with it is that we don’t think the proposed formula deals with the problems with the allocation of central government funding in England and Wales.

“I think the Government has missed an opportunity through this review to strategically look at how to deal with funding police forces in England and Wales.

“I think the funding formula does need reviewing, but the way this has happened is flawed.”

She added: “The figures the formula spits out do not seem to have any logic in them and don’t seem to reflect the needs of local police forces. We are challenging the Government’s criteria they are using to base the formula on.

“We have said we are prepared to look at legal action if they are not willing to listen to our concerns.”

If the changes are implemented, three forces could lose more than ten per cent of their grants. Cumbria Constabulary could lose £9.5 million while Lancashire Constabulary could see its grant reduced by almost £25 million.

The level of core funding for police forces nationwide will be revealed when Chancellor George Osborne makes his spending review announcement at the end of this month.

South Yorkshire Police looks set to benefit by £30 million a year from the new funding arrangements, while West Yorkshire Police would get an extra £5.7 million a year if core funding levels nationwide remained the same as last year.

South Yorkshire’s crime commissioner Dr Alan Billings, who faces large bills for the National Crime Agency’s probe into Rotherham sex abuse and the cost of the ongoing Hillsborough inquests, said his force was currently looking at having to save £66 million in the next four years.

He said: “Whilst I welcome the news of a possible increase in the funding formula for South Yorkshire, it is too early to say how, or even if, these proposals will provide us with a boost to our finances.

“The funding formula is just one part of the budget settlement and there are a number of other formulas that may affect our final allocation for 2016/17.

“Whilst I welcome any proposed uplift in our funding, the position of the South Yorkshire Police budget remains grave and we have much work to do and many tough decisions still to make.”

In response, policing minister Mike Penning said crime was falling but that further reform was needed, “and that includes putting police funding on a long-term, sustainable footing”.

He said: “The current model for allocating police funding, is complex, opaque and out of date. That is why we have consulted on principles for reform of funding arrangements for the police in England and Wales, ensuring they are fair, robust and transparent.

“We are refining our proposed model in light of responses to the public consultation and are engaging further with Police and Crime Commissioners and forces as part of this process.”