Nick Alston responds to the central government grant settlement for policing
Provisional figures suggest the policing grant from central government for Essex will be £172.8m for 2015/16. This is an £8.5m (4.7%) reduction on the figure of £181.3m for 2014/15.
The central government grant makes up roughly two-thirds of the overall policing budget, with the other one third coming from the policing precept, which is the portion of local council tax used for policing and community safety purposes.
To help offset the reduction in central government grant, my intention, encouraged by the Police and Crime Panel for Essex, is to seek an increase in the policing precept for Essex for 2015/16. I will be announcing my proposals shortly. A 2 per cent increase in the policing precept for Essex would raise about £1.7 million and cost an average council tax payer less than 6 pence per week.
Essex Police has prepared detailed plans for delivering the savings required in 2015/16. A key part of those plans is to identify and deliver any further efficiencies, particularly in areas such as technology and property, and to build on existing collaboration arrangements.
In Essex, and across almost all forces, about 84 per cent of the overall policing budget is spent on the salaries of police officers and police staff. Regrettably the reduction in budget means that there will be a further reduction in the number of officers and staff working for Essex Police in 2015/16 and future years.
Chief Constable Kavanagh has reaffirmed his commitment to local policing, and Essex Police has been restructured in the past few months to give greater local power and control to the Chief Inspectors who are in charge of the county’s policing districts. Comparing the year to September 2014 with the previous year, there has been a reduction of 11 per cent in house burglary, meaning 871 fewer victims of this distressing crime across our county. There have been similar or greater reductions in Anti-Social Behaviour, vehicle crime and robbery. Unfortunately, there have been increases in violent crime and serious sexual crime, and Essex Police will continue to investigate these crimes and bring criminals to justice.
Local policing will remain strong in Essex. But the call for more ‘bobbies on the beat’ misunderstands the nature of some of the key challenges now faced by our police forces.
In 2014, the front line is the front room. In Essex, there are four times as many domestic violence incidents as there are burglaries, and most domestic abuse takes place not in the street but in the family home. ‘Bobbies on the beat’ will not address this and other hidden harms.
Online grooming of children also takes place behind closed doors, and the vast majority of attempted fraud offences – where criminals frequently target some of the most vulnerable members of our communities – use telephone or computer technology. We also need to invest more money and resources, and build ever closer working relationships with partners such as social care agencies, to tackle the horrors of Child Sexual Exploitation.
To tackle the challenges of people suffering a mental health crisis, we need to build on the commitment in the newly signed and agreed Concordat to enhance partnership working between the NHS, the police, councils and many other agencies.
So we need a fearless and fundamental look at how police and partner resources are used to tackle crime and keep our communities safe in the Twenty First Century.
We must also continue to invest for the longer term in key areas such as the technology available to our police officers. We must explore opportunities for sharing buildings with partners such as councils and emergency services at the heart of our communities rather than paying for expensive to maintain red brick buildings often in out-of-the-way locations.
As a final thought, we must never cease to seek to attract the very best people into our police forces, and ensure that police officers, PCSOs and police staff have excellent training to help deliver the most professional and modern service possible.
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex