Watchdog backs police over budget proposals

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YORKSHIRE’S biggest police force has been praised by a Government watchdog for having a “clear vision” of how it will make dramatic cuts to its budget over seven years.

West Yorkshire Police was singled out for criticism by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary along with South Yorkshire in July for its failure to make the necessary cutbacks.

The force, one of the most reliant in the country on shrinking levels of central funding, was said to have “not grasped the same opportunities to transform and deliver savings as other forces”.

HMIC said at the time that West Yorkshire needed to save more than £112 million in the four-year spending review period to 2015, but still had £9.4 million to find.

Since returning to the force late last year for another inspection, Roger Baker, HM Inspector of Constabulary for the Northern Region, has praised the work it has done to tackle the problem.

He wrote in a letter to chief constable Mark Gilmore: “Since the inspection, with the support of the Police and Crime Commissioner, you have moved quickly to refocus the force under a clear vision for the future supported by a new operating model and underpinned by a comprehensive change programme.

“As a result of this you have a plan which enables you to close the previously identified savings gap, supports improved performance and enables West Yorkshire to be better placed to respond to future funding challenges.”

The letter said the force had developed plans to save £105 million by March 2015, £2.7 million more than is required, and had cut its reliance on reserves from £31 million to £7 million.

It added that due to more staff leaving than expected, an underspend of £17.2 million was predicted for this financial year.

Mr Baker said changes to the force’s structure included “fewer territorial areas, a smaller (but more focused) leadership team at all levels, a realignment of specialist crime and operations and greater collaboration”.

He said: “You are clear on the savings requirement to 2016/7 and now have well developed plans to achieve £50 million of the £68 million required.”

Mr Gilmore said: “We are beginning to see the green shoots of improved performance and I would like to thank my own officers and staff, our partners and indeed our communities for all the hard work and support they have given to get us this far.”

Police commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson yesterday promised to maintain his funding for police community support officers in West Yorkshire, despite Leeds city council announcing plans that could see £200,000 slashed from their section of the budget for the officers.