Budget and precept 2014-15

Budget and precept 2014-15

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Bob Jones has published proposals for the police budget and precept for 2014-15.

 

Summary of proposals

  • Recruitment of up to 250 police officers in 2014-15 and up to 200 police officers in 2015-16
  • Recruitment of up to 100 police staff posts in 2014-15 to release police officers for duties on the streets of the West Midlands
  • Creation of a £10 million reserve to spend on new "invest to save" technologies identified by the Innovation and Integration Partnership
  • Use of £60 million of available reserves to support the new recruitment and the "invest to save" reserve
  • An increase in the police precept of about £3 per year (equal to 6p per week for an average household, or 3% overall), approximately in line with inflation, to ensure that the new recruitment is sustainable

A consultation on these proposals ran from 5 November 2013 to Friday 20 December 2013.

Background

The Police Precept - second lowest in the country

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Bob Jones is responsible for setting the budget for West Midlands Police.  He also sets the local "police precept" - that is the part of Council Tax that goes to the police.  Currently, this is £102.43 a year.

Our precept is the second lowest in the country.  The next lowest, in West Yorkshire - which is a Force similar to West Midlands Police - has a precept of £138 a year.  In other similar forces, such as Greater Manchester and Merseyside, precepts are over £150 a year.  Our regional neighbours (Stafforshire, West Mercia and Warwickshire) all have precepts of about £180 a year.  The highest precepts in the country are more than double ours.

Cuts to government funding

Keeping the precept low is good for the West Midlands, but it makes us more dependent on central government funding.  Some forces rely on government funding for about half their total income, whereas government funding makes up 88% of our total budget.  The government has made flat rate cuts to the funding for the police in recent years.  As we are more reliant on this money, these cuts have hit us harder than others, and in total we have so far cut £126 million from the budget.  There's been a recruitment freeze and officers with 30 years service have been required to retire.

Budget reserves

Through careful planning, ambitious efforts to cut costs and people leaving the organisation more quickly than expected, we've hit our savings targets ahead of schedule.  This has meant that we have underspent, and our reserves have increased.  Reserves can only be spent once, so any plan to use them has to be sustainable.

Funding forumula

Finally, there is a police funding formula that says what share of national funding each police should receive.  For historical reasons, some forces receive more than the formula says they need, and some receive less.  We receive a lot less.  This year, we'll receive £43 million less than the formula says we're entitled to - a loss over three times greater than any other force.

Overall then, West Midlands Police has the worst financial position of any police force in the country.

Concerns about crime levels and the crime "tipping point"

The last ten years have seen dramatic falls in recorded crime.  Worryingly however, in recent months there have been some indications that crime has flat-lined - the decreases have stopped.  Some categories of recorded crime are increasing.  There is a danger that the things we do to prevent crime - such as neighbourhood policing - will be sucked into responding to crime instead.  Bob Jones has talked about the danger of a "tipping point" at which responding to crime means that prevention is sacrificed, in turn leading to more crime.  An injection of new officers will stabilise the workforce, offset the ageing of the workforce - by next year there will be no police officers under 25 - and help make the force more representative of the communities it serves.  The decision to end the compulsory retirement of police officers rests with the Chief Constable and not the PCC, but these budget proposals will enable early consideration of whether the current position can be changed.

More information is available in the Chief Financial Officer's report to the Strategic Policing and Crime Board on 5 November 2013.

The survey ran from 5 November 2013 to Friday 20 December 2013

Results will be published for the meeting of the Strategic Policing and Crime Board on 7 January 2014.