Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, has pointed to “a fundamental misunderstanding of the Force’s financial position” by the Home Office at the critical time when police force budgets are to be settled in next month’s Spending Review.
The Home Office had released statements to news services which claimed Bedfordshire Police holds £13.2m in its “reserves” and pointed to increased funding of police in our county of £1.8m, which the Commissioner confirmed was more than wiped out by the costs of standing still.
Commissioner Holloway stated that Bedfordshire Police, in fact, has just £3m in general reserves which can be used for any emergency and any purpose. For example, these can be used to help fund the extra £650,000 which has to be found by the Force for the recent one-off (unconsolidated) pay award to police officers, announced by Government, on top of the 1% already budgeted for.
“The remainder are so-called ‘earmarked’ reserves - which are held for specific purposes, including medium term financial planning and funds which, as PCC, I'm required to keep in law for insurance, maintenance of police buildings and one-off costs. For example, the Soham murder inquiry - a one-off event - reputedly cost over £7m to police. In the public sector, the minimum amount generally considered prudent to hold as a general reserve is 3% of income - which is virtually identical to what I am reserving, in Bedfordshire Police terms,” said Commissioner Holloway.
“I am genuinely hugely concerned, at such a critical time (when the police funding settlement for 2018/19 is due to be announced just next month in the Chancellor’s Spending Review) that the Home Office still does not appear to fully understand our finances and I am writing to the Policing Minister immediately to set the record straight.
“As far as any extra money is concerned, Bedfordshire Police has had to make savings of £11.1m in the three financial years 2015/16 to 2017/18. While the Home Office say our overall funding has increased from £99.6m to £101.4m, an increase of £1.8m, this does not take account the fact that our stand-still costs have increased well above that level,” added the PCC.
“Such costs include a 1% pay award on all of our pay costs each year for those three years. These in themselves exceeded the £1.8m additional funding the Home Office mention. On top of that we have had to increase our pension costs, meet the increase in cost, from a change in legislation, for national insurance (an increase of £1.7m), pay for the new mandatory cost for an Apprenticeship Levy as well as make unavoidable investment in ICT to ensure that our computer systems and tools remain up to date for modern day policing. All of these costs collectively amount to absolutely necessary spending which is way and above the £1.8m quoted by the Home Office,” said the Commissioner.
The facts on Bedfordshire Police funding:-
* The Force has £3m in general reserves and £10.7m in earmarked reserves.
* At the end of 2020-21, it is anticipated that the Force will hold £3m in general reserves and just £3.4m will be left in earmarked reserves.
* The PCC is legally obliged to hold a range of earmarked reserves to cover the upkeep and delivery of estates and buildings, insurance liabilities and support one-off costs associated with Force infrastructure.
Just this week the PCC sent an analysis of unprecedented demand on Bedfordshire Police to Policing Minister, Nick Hurd, as part of the Home Office’s new review of all police funding.
“The summary is that we are 300 frontline officers and 80 detectives short of forces facing similar crime challenges even before the surge in demand across all of policing this summer, which the Force is in a worse position than others to cope with as it is in the lowest quartile for central funding and also for council tax, as proportionately fewer properties in this council are at the higher end for charges (Band D and above),” said the Commissioner.
This year Bedfordshire Police has faced a surge in demand never seen before including:-
* An 11% rise in 999 calls
* A 16% rise in 101s
* A 24% rise in incidents requiring an immediate response (all May 2016-2017).
In addition, 40% of all shots fired across the seven Forces of the East of England are fired in Bedfordshire and the Force faces the third highest terror risk in the country.
“This is why it is so imperative that the Home Office gets its facts right and that the Minister who initiated this very welcome review in order that any gap between resources and demand could be fully evidenced, can see that I have provided the unvarnished truth in our report this week,” concluded Commissioner Holloway.