Grant to freeze council tax a short-term sop says chief facing huge cuts to force

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A Yorkshire chief constable whose force faces cuts of almost £100m over four years has described a Government grant to freeze council tax bills as a “short-term sop”.

More than a dozen police authorities across the country, including West and North Yorkshire, have agreed not to raise precepts from April in return for a one-off handout from Ministers.

But the money is available for one year only, and West Yorkshire Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison has warned that crime-fighting projects funded by the grant could be in jeopardy in 12 months.

Sir Norman said: “West Yorkshire Police Authority has chosen not to resist a £2.7m one-off grant but the problem is that, in the long term, if you spend it on things that are recurring – like people’s wages – you have not just got to find £2.7m next year, you have got to find £5.4m to keep those people employed.

“It feels to us like a short-term sop with real long-term risk to the viability of what we choose to spend it on.”

Sir Norman said the force, which has shed 1,000 staff since June 2010, had made cuts of more than £37m in the last year and would have to find a further £27m by the end of March 2013.

He said the number of local neighbourhood officers and PCSOs had remained the same and other frontline departments had avoided the worst of the cuts.

But he revealed that divisional commanders were being encouraged to share resources where possible and he hinted there would be more emphasis on working with other Yorkshire forces to create regionwide units.

He said support workers had been most affected, and this meant officers were having to spend more time at headquarters or handling paperwork.

South Yorkshire and Humberside police authorities voted to turn down the Government’s grant and instead ask for more from the taxpayer.

Local Government Minister Bob Neill said: “Local residents who have seen their bills more than double since 1997 will be delighted that West Yorkshire Police Authority has taken up the Government’s grant to freeze its share of council tax for another year. Residents deserve a much-needed cost of living break.”