New cuts to police funding ‘could put services at risk’

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YORKSHIRE’S largest police force faces having to make an extra £7m in savings in the next two years after Chancellor George Osborne announced further cuts to Home Office funding.

West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Mark Burns-Williamson has warned the measures announced in this week’s Autumn Statement could “compromise services” if they are passed onto local polices forces.

The Home Office budget will be cut by an extra £231m by 2016, with up to 75 per cent of the department’s budget spent on policing and four per cent of that going to West Yorkshire.

If the Home Office does not absorb the cuts itself, the PCC’s office says the move means an extra £3.5m savings will need to be found in West Yorkshire for 2014-15 and £3.4m in 2015-16, on top of those already announced.

The force has already had to save around £143m between 2010-11 and 2016-17, equivalent to more than 26 per cent of the budget.

Mr Burns-Williamson said: “We have secured funding for 44 extra police officers by increasing the precept to ensure we are keeping our communities safe and feeling safe.

“But any more cuts would be particularly difficult for West Yorkshire and communities would potentially suffer.

“I am calling on the Government to ensure everything is done to protect the West Yorkshire Police budget.”

Police forces in West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire are more reliant on Government funding than others around the country because they generate less money from their proportion of the council tax precept.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) singled out the two forces for criticism over their response to the need to make long-term savings in July and warned that further cuts to their funding after 2015 could endanger services.

HMIC 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.

Bosses were told the watchdog would carry out a further inspection and have since been working on plans to restructure their departments.

Inspectors returned to the forces last month to “review the ongoing achievement of the planned savings”.

Earlier this year Mr Burns-Williamson launched a campaign to persuade the Treasury to allow local forces to keep more of the money collected by targeting criminals’ ill-gotten gains through the Proceeds of Crime Act.

He said: “I will be seeking assurances from the Home Secretary that West Yorkshire will not feel the full force of cuts.

“This is hitting communities across West Yorkshire and creating an even wider gap between those areas with the greatest need and those that do not face the same or significant challenges that we do.”