Warwickshire Police faces 'significant challenges' - The Leamington Observer

Warwickshire Police faces 'significant challenges'

Leamington Editorial 6th Nov, 2018   0

‘SIGNIFICANT challenges’ lie ahead for Warwickshire Police.

So says Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe who added the challenges facing the force were not eased by any commitment to raise general police funding in chancellor Philip Hammond’s budget.

Speaking exclusively to The Observer, Mr Seccombe confirmed the force would be able to recruit up to 50 new officers by next March following an increase in the police’s share of council tax in Warwickshire.

But a further 50 officers – giving the force a total of 862 – would still leave it with 111 fewer officers than it had in 2010.

Mr Seccombe told The Observer: “I don’t think Warwickshire Police is at breaking point – but I think we have significant challenges going forward.”I’m not currently in a position to speculate on what next year’s budget is going to be.

“Whatever we end up with, that will be the bottom line. We may have to look at the budget line-by-line if we don’t have the money.”

Warwickshire Police’s budget for 2018-19 is £94.43million – made up of £52.94million government funding and £41.49million from council tax.

But Mr Seccombe said the government’s decision to use existing police resources to meet a pensions shortfall and a one per cent pay rise for officers would cost the force £2million – the equivalent of 12 officers’ annual salaries.

He confirmed shrinking budgets meant some reported crimes were never investigated, after Channel 4 current affairs programme Dispatches recently revealed just under 33 per cent of crimes in Warwickshire were ‘screened out’ – higher than the national average of 27 per cent.

Mr Seccombe explained: “We have to prioritise the 999 calls. For example, if life is threatened, then sadly it can take preference over a burglary.

“Some of that is sensible, but some of it is forced on us.”

His comments came soon after the chief constables of West Midlands, Greater Manchester and Merseyside forces took the unprecedented step of warning that budget cuts could leave them with officer numbers last seen in the 1970s.

David Thompson, the chief constable of neighbouring West Midlands Police, said: “We are struggling to deliver a service to the public. I think criminals are well aware now how stretched we are.”

But Mr Seccombe was keen to sound a note of optimism.

“We have a good, well-led force. It’s not all bad news – it’s about priorities, really.

“For example, we’re going to keep all our Safer Neighbourhood Teams, and we have bolstered the number of officers going into patrol.

“We have a new Operational Control Centre opening in Warwick next year, with more sophisticated IT and communication systems which will help in attending more incidents.

“And we have a new incident progression team in the control room, who can deal with some things without needing a visit.”

But further fears were recently raised when a group of MPs said policing was at risk of becoming ‘irrelevant’.

A report by the Home Affairs Committee said forces in England and Wales were ‘struggling to cope’ amid falling staff numbers and rising crime – accusing the Home Office of a ‘complete failure of leadership’ and warning there would be ‘dire consequences’ for public safety without more funding.

Mr Seccombe said he was lobbying MPs for Warwickshire to press for a better deal for the force in the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review next year.

“We would like to see a change in the policing formula. We get much less per head than some of the bigger urban forces.

“Nearly half the money we get comes from council tax – but in West Midlands, for example, it’s under 20 per cent.

“There are some sensible reasons why that is so, but it makes it harder for us.

“I would like to get to the situation where there is police contact and victim support contact for all victims of crime,” he said.

“We have a duty to keep an effective and efficient force, and my job is to give the chief constable enough money to keep Warwickshire safe.

“The residents’ and the community’s interests come first.”

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