Funding for new police officers in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire ‘insufficient’ with cuts and rising debt
Policing in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire has suffered funding cuts with debts of up to £90 million, according to the county’s crime panel.
The body wrote to policing minister Kit Malthouse in April highlighting the financial pressures, with the letter and the minister’s response now having been published.
Edward Leigh, chair of the Cambridgeshire Police & Crime Panel, wrote that the county receives the fifth lowest levels of funding per person in England and Wales despite “specific challenges and cost pressures arising in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough from the rapid growth in population”.
He continued that “policing costs are increasing faster than funding” despite the policing precept in council tax bills rising by the highest amount permitted without having to hold a local referendum, as well as “substantial efficiency savings”.
In addition, while a rise in police officer numbers has been “most welcome,” the funding for the uptake was “insufficient to cover all the overheads associated with recruiting, training, equipping and supporting new officers” and has meant that “larger cuts have to be made to other areas of policing and crime prevention”.
Capital funding of £135,000 a year was also said to be “wholly inadequate to cover investment in national policing systems and infrastructure,” with all of the above “forcing the commissioner to take on high levels of debt (up to £90 million in the current Medium Term Finance Strategy), the servicing of which will reduce operational funding for many years to come”.
Mr Leigh also raised concerns about funding being shifted from government grants to council tax which he said “does not correlate well with people’s net or disposable income
(ability to pay) nor with their wealth”.
He added: “We urge the Government to review how policing is funded in general and in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.”
The panel made up of local councillors scrutinises the county’s police and crime commissioner - currently Conservative Darryl Preston - and has the power of veto over certain decisions, including the appointment of the chief constable.
In his response, Mr Malthouse said: “The council tax referendum principles are not a cap, nor do they force local authorities to set taxes at the threshold level, but rather they are an additional local democratic check to prevent excessive increases.”
He said Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is receiving up to £164.7 million of funding in 2021/22, an increase of £8.5 million on the previous year.
He added: “This Government is aware of the concerns many in the policing sector hold over the current formula and we have stated publicly that the current arrangements are out of date.
“We recognise that a number of forces continue to hold concerns on the current funding distribution, particularly as we increase investment in policing for the recruitment of 20,000 additional officers.
“There are a number of longer-term decisions the Government must make on delivering funding for future years in the context of the upcoming full Spending Review in 2021. This includes carefully considering the approach to allocating officer numbers in advance of taking decisions for year three of the 20,000 officer uplift.
“A new Home Office chaired Efficiency in Policing Board will improve the evidence based on efficiencies delivered to date, identify opportunities for gains over this and future Spending Review periods, share best practice in relation to the delivery of efficiencies, and monitor and support delivery of gains.”