Posted: Monday 21st September 2015
I recently raised concerns with the Home Office and our local MPs over the government’s proposed new formula for allocating many to individual police forces. I had welcomed the government’s consultation on the formula, something I’d been pushing for the past three years as Avon and Somerset was so short-changed by the previous formula when the government didn’t implement it in full. I was staggered to see that current projections look like the new formula will be worse for our area. I had hardly thought this was possible. It looks like we will miss out on £15 million a year from central government towards policing. I have asked the Home Office to have an urgent re-think of the proposed model and to spend time speaking to police forces about what this means in practice.
Our police service has shrunk considerably over the past five years. There are nearly 600 fewer police officers than there were in 2010. This November we are expecting another funding cut from the government of anything from £25-£40 million on top of the £56 million we have already saved, and in addition to the £15 million a year from the potential funding formula review. These are massive and worrying numbers and I do think we are now at a stage when the level of police service residents currently receive is threatened. With these numbers, preventing crime from happening in the first place gets harder and harder to do. The police service will become reactive if resources are reduced to these levels.
Many organisations such as local councils and the fire service also face difficult decisions this November.
The government also released consultation this week regarding Police and Crime Commissioners replacing Fire Authorities and proposals for Fire Chiefs to become Chief Constables and for police and fire staff to become one organisation. These are radical ways to think however it all drives the same agenda - to make savings. I am very supportive of collaboration and finding smarter ways of working. I believe there are efficiencies that can be made between the police and fire service although it would be very hard to have one emergency service Police and Crime Commissioner in this area because of the geography.
In North Somerset council staff have received limited police powers to enable an even greater response to our communities. The council’s new community response officers now have the power to issue fixed penalty notices for dog fouling, cycling on a footpath, littering and many more. This makes absolute sense and has worked very well in other parts of the country.
I also visited Bridgwater to join councillors, police officers, fire officers and council staff for the launch of the East Bridgwater Together Team. I have seen first-hand how this new ‘one-team’ multi-agency approach can really work at strengthening communities and cutting crime and anti-social behaviour.
I am extremely pleased to see councils and the police service working together so well. So many problems in our communities cannot be tackled alone and it’s essential that we find ways to collaborate and innovate within reducing budgets.