PCC in battle with Home Office officials who ‘misunderstand’ problems facing force

The Home Office has been told to “get its facts right” in war of words over the financial position of one of the UK’s most over-stretched forces.

Oct 31, 2017

The Home Office has been told to “get its facts right” in war of words over the financial position of one of the UK’s most over-stretched forces. Bedfordshire police and crime commissioner (PCC) Kathryn Holloway has pointed to “a fundamental misunderstanding” – insisting she has only provided the “unvarnished truth” when declaring the force`s future is `on the line`. She says the Home Office has released media statements claiming Bedfordshire Police holds £13.2 million in its “reserves” and alluded to £1.8 million increased funding of the force, which the PCC confirmed was more than wiped out by the “costs of standing still”. Ms Holloway maintains the force has just £3 million in general reserves which can be used for ‘any emergency or general purpose’ and argues that £650,000 has had to be found for the one-off, unconsolidated pay award to officers – on top of the one per cent already budgeted for. The Conservative PCC, who has already crossed swords with the Home Office on the issue of budgets, has now written to Policing and Fire Services Minister Nick Hurd expressing “huge concern” that in the month when the police funding settlement for 2018/19 is due to be announced in the Chancellor’s Spending Review, “the Home Office still does not appear to fully understand our finances”. She added: “As far as any extra money is concerned, Bedfordshire Police has had to make savings of £11.1 million in the three financial years 2015/16 to 2017/18. While the Home Office say our overall funding has increased from £99.6 million to £101.4 million, an increase of £1.8 million, this does not take account the fact that our stand-still costs have increased well above that level.” Responding to the claims, the Home Office says it agrees with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services that there is “considerable scope” to improve efficiency in the police service. Since 2010 forces in England and Wales have increased the proportion of officers working at the frontline and proved that “you can continue to cut crime with a smaller, more agile workforce”, it added. Ms Holloway believes that budgetary constraints are putting a void between frontline policing and the demands being made on officers. Forces across England and Wales are now “experiencing” the kind of financial pressures that for years the under-funded Bedfordshire force has faced. The Bedfordshire PCC had already told Mr Hurd in an initial submission that the force needed £10 million funding for 300 frontline officers and 80 detectives to plug a gap between resources and unprecedented demand. She described the Bedfordshire Police Demand and Finance Report 2017 “arguably the most important document which the force has ever sent to Government”. “It certainly is among the most detailed ever to be sent to a Policing Minister from the force… to meet a level of demand for its services that has never been seen before,” she said. The plea for additional funds comes on top of her support for Chief Constable Jon Boutcher in already seeing 96 new constables recruited in the financial year to April 1 and 100 more coming this year. Ms Holloway has told the minister the force – seen as “guarding the back door to the capital, and UK plc” – should be treated as a “special case for scrutiny given its unique situation”, adding: “I firmly believe that if this shortfall is not met, Bedfordshire Police`s future is unsustainable. “Bedfordshire Police is a force achieving miracles on its overstretched budget… it is fair to say its future is on the line.” The PCC said the force has seen an 11 per cent increase in 999 calls this year, a 16 per cent increase in 101 calls and a 24 per cent increase in calls requiring an immediate response by officers. In common with the rest of England and Wales, crime levels have also risen in Bedfordshire with a 12.2 per cent increase in overall recorded crime in the county between April and August 2017. Ms Holloway says the force, in budgeta

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