PCC welcomes police funding settlement
I welcome the police grant settlement announced by the government today, December 17, 2015. It is good news for Essex and for our police force. Overall funding for policing across our county has now stabilised and we can make plans for the future with more confidence and clarity.
Early analysis of the figures for 2016-17 suggests that there will be a small decrease in central government funding of around £1 million. However, this can be offset by a small increase of a few pence a week in the amount we pay locally in the policing precept, the portion of council tax which funds our police service.
In Essex, we currently pay the second lowest amount through council tax for policing of any county in the country. 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.
In the light of today’s announcements, I will now consider the full financial position. Following further discussions with Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh, I will then take a proposal for the policing precept level to the Police and Crime Panel for Essex in late January, 2016.
However, it is important to note that Essex Police will still need to make significant efficiency savings. On top of the roughly £40 million of savings that Essex Police has made since 2010-11, the force still faces additional cost pressures of around £12 million in 2016-17 alone. These cost pressures include an increase of around £4.5 million in National Insurance payments, around £3 million in pay inflation, £2.5 million in essential capital and other provisions, and around £2.5 million of operational improvements in the crucial specialist area of policing known as Public Protection.
In addition, I believe that we in Essex do not get our fair share of the national policing budget, and I will continue to make the case for a review of the national funding formula which determines individual police force allocations.
The Chief Constable and I have already announced that the number of police station front counters in Essex will reduce from 25 to 10 from April 2016. The force has also concluded consultation with staff and informed them of the outcomes of the process which will see 98 Customer Contact Administrator posts reduce to 36.
The Essex Police front counters which will remain open to the public from 9am to 5pm are: Grays, Basildon, Southend, Harlow, Chelmsford, Braintree, Colchester and Clacton (all Monday to Sunday) Maldon, Saffron Walden (both Monday to Friday). Research during two months showed around 80 per cent of all visits to Essex Police stations were made to these front counters. Operational policing bases, without front counters, will be kept in: Loughton, Brentwood, Canvey Island, Great Dunmow, Rayleigh and Harwich.
It is essential that we continue to invest to ensure Essex Police is fit to meet both current and future challenges. The current property estate is haemorrhaging money. Essex Police’s 80 buildings are in a poor state of repair. They require £30 million of maintenance work to bring up to standard and expenditure of almost £2 million a year just to maintain the current condition. This is why, based on careful analysis, we are planning to reduce the estate to 30 buildings strategically placed around Essex, and deliver a new Headquarters that is modern and fit for purpose both now and for the next 20 years.
I am conscious that our PCSO colleagues go into Christmas facing an uncertain future. Essex Police entered into formal consultation in October 2015 on proposals to reduce the numbers of PCSO posts from 250 to 60 by April 2016. The Chief Constable has deferred the decision around these proposals until January 2016 to allow for careful consideration and analysis of all relevant information.
It is clear that the Chief Constable faces difficult choices. The report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) published earlier this week found significant concerns around the police response to vulnerable victims in the areas of domestic abuse, missing people and child sexual exploitation. Protecting vulnerable people in our county will require continued improvements in Essex Police systems, a change in culture across all agencies, and crucially more trained and skilled detectives to investigate perpetrators and safeguard victims. The Chief Constable has to make considered and tough choices about the balance of the police workforce, as the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime and the terrible harm caused by domestic abuse and sexual offences against adults and children becomes ever more clear.
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex