Threat of funding reforms '˜a black cloud over North Yorkshire Police'

THE THREAT of radical changes to the way the police service is funded have been described as a 'black cloud' over a Yorkshire force, despite it being spared from swingeing cuts in the latest Government spending review.

Julia Mulligan

North Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Julia Mulligan says reforms to the national funding formula, which were delayed last year after the Home Office admitted it made statistical errors, will be re-introduced in some form within a year. Had the proposed changes been brought in, they would have led to North Yorkshire and several other forces losing millions of pounds a year from their budget.

Mrs Mulligan joined other PCCs in writing to Policing Minister Mike Penning in protest at the “flawed” changes to the way funding is calculated, claiming they were unfair to rural forces.

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Chancellor George Osborne’s spending review in November saw police receive smaller-than-expected cuts, surprising local forces who were expecting to lose up to 40 per cent of their budgets.

Speaking at a scrutiny meeting last week, Mrs Mulligan said she was pleased with the Chancellor’s announcement, but said wider reforms to police funding were “the black cloud over North Yorkshire Police”.

It is thought wider changes to the criteria for how the police service as a whole is funded, including regional and national law enforcement agencies, could result in a significant loss to the force.

Mrs Mulligan told North Yorkshire’s police and crime panel: “We are not certain yet how this will play out. There are a number of work streams and debates going on around this.

“Had they introduced these changes to the funding formula we would have lost £9 million off our baseline every year. It would have been a significant cut.

“At the moment there are various different groups looking at what a new funding formula might look like. The Government has said they want to introduce it within a year.”

Though local police budgets were protected by the Chancellor, this was based on forces raising their share of the council tax precept by 1.99 per cent.

North Yorkshire’s police precept has not been decided yet, but two-thirds of respondents to an online and phone survey that ended last week said they would accept an increase of 1.99 per cent or more.

Mrs Mulligan told the scrutiny meeting that the better-than expected settlement meant more money would be available to tackle her priority of protecting vulnerable people.

This includes more funds for early intervention and victim care, as well as the introduction of a mental health triage service where mental health nurses are put in police control rooms.

But she warned: “It would be fair to say that the financial situation we had before necessitated a really hard look at the way the police force actually works.

“We have got savings plans and work streams that we want to continue as it will improve productivity and efficiency.

“Bearing in mind this is tax-payers’ money we want to make sure the resources we have are used in the most effective way.”

Last year, policing minister Mike Penning apologised to the House of Commons after admitting there was a statistical error in the data used to create the funding formula.

He said: “We recognise this has caused a great deal of concern to police forces around the country. I and the Government regret this mistake and I apologise to the House.”