Funding cuts have left force at ‘tipping point’

Policing in Avon and Somerset will face “extremely serious consequences” if the force’s budget is slashed any further, senior leaders have warned.

Sep 19, 2017

Policing in Avon and Somerset will face “extremely serious consequences” if the force’s budget is slashed any further, senior leaders have warned. Chief Constable Andy Marsh has joined the growing list of chief constables speaking out against cuts as he highlighted the funding gap threatening his force. In a letter to Policing and Fire Minister Nick Hurd, sent jointly with police and crime commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens, he said the expected £17 million savings over the next few years are not sustainable. He added that rising demand – including the threat of terrorism – is stretching officers thin and leaving the force’s ability to protect the public “severely tested”. The joint letter said: “Despite a strict curb on pay increases, police officers and staff have shown tremendous resilience, professionalism and commitment, carrying out some of the toughest jobs in increasingly difficult circumstances. “But we now face a tipping point. We cannot sustain further funding cuts without extremely serious consequences.” Last year, Avon and Somerset Constabulary was recognised as ‘good’ at driving efficiency and managing demand by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services. The force has already cut £65 million from its budget since 2010 and must find £17 million to balance its books by 2021/22. It has also experienced a 100 per cent rise in serious crimes such as domestic abuse and rape, as well as a large increase in other non-crime matters. Meanwhile, the Government’s decision to offer a one per cent pay bonus on top of the annual pay rise means the force has to find another £1.1 million from its existing budget. Wages make up more than half of total force budgets, which have experienced 18 per cent real-term cuts since 2010. The warning by Mr Marsh and Ms Mountstevens marks the latest in a series of public statements by police leaders increasingly concerned about their stretched finances. Earlier this month, Northumbria Police Chief Constable Steve Ashman claimed budget cuts have left his force “very, very close” to not being able to deliver a professional service. Cleveland PCC Barry Coppinger said the extra pay award will lead to half a million pounds being lost from the local budget. The National Police Chiefs’ Council added that it will affect forces’ ability to “deliver policing services and maintain staffing levels”. Ms Mountstevens said the cuts to Avon and Somerset Constabulary have reached the point where “enough is enough”. She added: “With required savings of £17 million to find by 2021/22, crime and the demand for services rising and changing, all against a backdrop of a reducing workforce, the current situation is unsustainable. “We need investment in policing, funding to strengthen our neighbourhood policing teams in order to focus on prevention, tackling terrorism before it happens.”

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