The Autumn Statement comes at a pivotal time for policing.
For the first time, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services has intervened to deliver a stark warning about the strain police are under. Nationally, we have seen an increase in complex, investigatory work, an unprecedented wave of terrorist attacks and a rise in violent crime. Combined with inflation and the recent changes in the national police officer pay settlement, current funding levels are no longer sufficient.
With this in mind, I am disappointed to be unable to find a single reference to crime or policing within the Chancellor’s speech.
The Home Office asked PCCs and Police Chiefs to assess levels of stretch and resilience in the service over the summer. Evidence shows that £440m extra is required in 2018/19 and £845m in 2019/20 to provide an additional 5,000 officers to deal with increased local policing demands and an armed policing uplift of a further 1,100 officers.
Alongside Chief Constable Debbie Simpson, I recently attended an APCC NPCC Partnership Summit to voice our local funding concerns. At the summit, the Home Secretary unequivocally told PCCs to stop lobbying Government for additional resources:
“I don’t just want to see you reaching for a pen to write a press release asking for more money… I want you to tell your local communities and the victims in your area what your plan is to make them safer.”
With crime levels rising at the current pace, it isn’t that simple. Like forces nationally, I have worked closely with Dorset Police to deliver substantial efficiency savings of £32.2m over the last spending review period, but the low hanging fruit has been picked. In fact, we have had to make a number of incredibly tough decisions, involving the sale of police estates, officer recruitment levels and the maintenance of local enquiry offices, to name but a few examples. Opportunities for further meaningful savings are becoming less obvious.
The Home Secretary recently advised all forces to rely on spending their reserves, but situations vary from force to force. I inherited very little from the Police Authority and while I have increased Dorset’s reserves since I was first elected, this is not a sustainable solution.
Though dissatisfied that this has not been addressed in the Chancellor’s statement, I keenly await the Government’s upcoming police grant settlement report. In the meantime, I’d like to reassure residents that we continue to innovate in order to maintain high levels of service delivery. We aren’t simply picking up a pen.
As the recent HMIC report highlighted, Dorset Police has risen to the financial challenges it faces. We are considering all our options to ensure we operate effectively, both now and in the future. This is one of the reasons why operational leaders of Dorset and Devon & Cornwall Police are considering a closer working relationship between the two forces, which will be a key focus of mine over the coming months.
Dorset Police & Crime Commissioner