Leicestershire Police and Crime Commissioner Lord Willy Bach has called for clarity on the Government’s pledge to boost police officer numbers across the UK – questioning whether enough funding is in place to pay for the uplift.
The PCC said he feared plans to recruit an extra 20,000 new police officers over the next 12 months were underfunded by more than £100m - and that the shortfall would need to be plugged by further efficiency savings.
He was speaking in the House of Lords as part of a debate about the Government’s plans for the year ahead, as outlined in the Queen’s Speech.
While welcoming the national uplift, the PCC told the House that police officer numbers had fallen nationally - by more than 21,000 officers - since 2010 and that reinforcements would simply “cancel” some of the cuts brought by austerity.
And questioning the figures behind the national recruitment plans, he said: “Another challenge that I raise, in a gentle spirit, is this: it looks as though the Government will be allocating £750 million to fund the recruitment of these 20,000 new police officers. But will police and crime commissioners and chief constables actually receive that money? The figure may be nearer £630 million; the rest, as the Government have already said, must come from that old favourite, efficiency savings.
“I fear that the promise of 20,000 police officers set out in the manifesto is underfunded by over £100 million. Finding that sort of money for a police force after a decade of austerity, in an environment where approaching nine-tenths of the cost are taken up by salaries, will be a challenge, to put it mildly.
“Indeed, if it is £630 million for 20,000 police officers, that is £31,500 per post. The actual cost of a police officer is much nearer £50,000 per officer so there will be underspending - an underfund - unless we are very careful.
“On top of that there are the infrastructure costs associated with the increase in police officer numbers, recruitment, training, ICT, vehicles and equipment, and those non-salary costs are not captured in the on-costs of police officers.”
Locally, he said officer numbers in Leicestershire had fallen from over 2,300 in 2010 to 1,800 in 2016, which equates to 500 fewer police officers at a time when the population had grown by 10% to 1.1 million. Recorded crime has also doubled, he added.
In addition to asking the Government to take a fresh look at funding, the PCC said it would be an error to impose a limit in this year’s precept.
“Of course, the policy change is very welcome but all Governments, whatever their complexion, are fond of giving with one hand and taking away with another,” he said.
“With all the pressures that there are on police forces up and down the country—those pressures of course include recruitment as well as serious violent crime and other matters that the House knows well—I argue that it would be a major error for the Government to limit the amount that police and crime commissioners are able to precept in the coming settlement.”
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Posted on Thursday 9th January 2020