As Chronicle readers will know, I have been lobbying the government hard over their unfair funding for our police service. Since 2010 Northumbria Police have had to endure cuts imposed on us of over £135 million, this has not been an easy challenge. However, the Chief Constable and I have squeezed every penny out of every pound to invest in the priorities that you set in the Police and Crime Plan – we will continue to look for savings.
The government took their budget cutting even further this year and gave Northumbria a budget that assumed council tax payers would pay £12 a year more for policing for a Band D property (£8 for a Band A property), if I didn’t do what they proposed it would mean over £5 million less for policing in Northumbria and that would be unthinkable. We consulted with many local residents on this proposal and I was heartened that 80% of those we contacted wanted to maintain our excellent policing service and were prepared to pay increase on the police precept.
Due to the continuous massive cuts, we now have a very small amount of funds in reserve As people will know, every public organisation has to keep some money in reserve ‘for a rainy day”.
In 2010, the force had over £70 million in reserves, The cuts have been so steep and so deep that we have had to use a large part of those reserves to fund day to day policing – to keep officers on the beat. If reserves had not been used, we would have had to let hundreds more police officers go. By March 2018, the massively depleted force reserves will stand at a little over £9 million and there is a danger that Tory cuts put us in the vulnerable position of not being able to respond to an emergency or to fund major change costs because we don’t have the reserves to do so. CIPFA, the public sector accounting body, recommend reserves of at least 3% of turnover and ours are just on that margin.
All this talk about poor funding settlements and low reserves can give an impression that things are bad, and I guess they are in relation to pounds and pennies, but our best asset are our people. Thanks to our great police officers, staff and the partners they work with, the communities we serve are some of the safest in the country. Northumbria police always try to go the extra mile and I am grateful to all our staff who make this happen. As I sign off, you have my assurances that we will always put you and your family first.