Keeping Essex safe now and for the future
Detailed analysis of the overall funding situation undertaken in the past few weeks has identified the following key facts. The overall base budget for Essex Police was £262.5 million for 2015-16, and with no change in local funding this would rise by around £800,000 to £263.3 million in 2016-17. However, Essex Police will face new and unavoidable cost pressures of £12.4 million* (see below) in 2016-17.
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “It has been my firm and consistent view since becoming Police and Crime Commissioner that Essex Police is under-funded for the tasks we ask of it and by comparison with other police forces. The changing nature of crime in our county requires increased investment to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.
“It is essential that Essex Police is as efficient as it can be, and I will continue to work with the Chief Constable to ensure efficiencies are delivered. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has repeatedly found that Essex Police provides better value for money than most other police forces. We have a deep programme of collaboration with Kent Police, including significant sharing of back office functions, and we are collaborating increasingly closely with other forces in the east of England. We have the lowest reserves in the country, so we do not have the option of absorbing cost pressures by reducing our reserves. But it is right that we continue to look for efficiencies to ensure public money is spent primarily on keeping the public safe.
“At the national level, I will continue to make the case for a review of the funding formula which determines individual police force allocations across the country. Changes to this national funding formula proposed by the Home Office last year would have seen funding for Essex Police increase by more than £10 million. Unfortunately, due to a technical error in the Home Office, the proposal had to be dropped and the funding formula is now subject to a further review later this year. This hopefully will increase the amount of central funding received here in our county.
“I have presented a detailed budget plan, including a proposed increase of just under £5 per year in local council tax for policing, to the Police and Crime Panel for their consideration on January 29, 2016. In practical terms, as an area with a historically low policing precept, the government has stated that the Police and Crime Commissioner can increase the policing part of council tax by just under 10 pence a week, or £4.95 a year in 2016-17. Such an increase would enable me to increase the base budget for Essex Police by £3.8 million to £266.3 million, from which the £12.4 million of cost pressures will need to be absorbed.
“I am conscious that proposing an increase in the precept will add to the council tax bill that all of us living in Essex will face from April 2016. However I believe it is essential that we increase our commitment to protecting some of the most vulnerable people in our communities whilst preserving the strongest local policing teams possible. This is the message I have heard consistently from communities right across the county week by week.
“The budget includes increased investment in specialist police officers and police staff to tackle child sexual exploitation, child abuse, serious sexual offences and domestic abuse. There will be an increased investigative capacity to tackle these often horrific crimes, and greater support and safeguarding for victims. There will also be significant investment in the training needed to equip officers to investigate internet enabled and cyber crime that is now affecting individuals and businesses across the county.
“During the autumn of 2015, I held a series of public meetings, providing opportunities for the people of Essex to put their questions and raise their concerns directly with the Chief Constable, with local police officers, and with me. We have listened carefully to the points made. We recognise the importance people place on crimes such as burglary, theft from cars and criminal damage, and on visible policing.
“Whilst funding for local policing regrettably has to reduce further by around £7 million, the new Community Policing Teams will work with response officers to continue to address these crimes and stay connected with local people. We have also changed the plans from those originally announced in October 2015 so that we will now keep more PCSOs, 90 posts in total, in addition to those who are directly funded by local councils, as a key part of those Community Policing Teams. I commend those councils choosing to invest with Essex Police in local policing.
“As part of the changes already announced, Customer Contact Administrator posts will reduce from 98 to 36 as police front counters reduce in number from 25 to 10 in April 2016. I have met and talked with many PCSOs and front counter staff, and I have huge respect for their continued professionalism and dignity during these difficult months when they have faced uncertainty about their futures. There are many valued colleagues who will be sorely missed.
“It is also imperative to invest for the future. We need to improve the training of police officers, detectives and police staff. We must modernise the Essex Police estate to ensure we stop haemorrhaging millions of pounds each year just to maintain often crumbling buildings in their existing poor condition. As part of this we will deliver a new Essex Police Headquarters that is modern and fit for purpose both now and for many years to come. Finally we must modernise the ways that the public can contact the police to better reflect the way we now live our lives. Very few people report crimes at police stations, and we must make it possible for members of the public to use secure online systems both to tell police about crimes and track the progress of investigations.
“The future will see our police officers equipped with digital technology enabling them to work on the road rather than stuck inside police stations. Response officers and locally based specialists will work together with the new Community Policing Teams, who in turn will work ever more closely with local councils from local partnership hubs to tackle persistent criminal and nuisance behaviour.
“All of these necessary changes will increase the effectiveness of Essex Police, deliver better value for money, and enable Essex Police to respond as well as possible to the demands of changing crime and changing communities over the coming years.
The papers presented to the Police and Crime Panel with full details of the budget can be read here
Essex residents can put their questions to Nick Alston and Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh during a live webchat place on Monday January 25 from 6pm to 8pm. People can join in by logging on to http://essex.police.uk/talkbacklive
You can also email your questions in advance to [email protected] or submit them on the night via the above weblink.
*Those cost pressures of £12.4 million consist of:
£1.7 million – inflationary pressures
£7.2 million – which includes an additional £4.5 million in National Insurance payments, and increments in police officer and staff pay
£2.4 million – to service existing obligations
£1.1 million – Insurance costs