Keeping people SAFER in my area is currently underfunded when measured against community desires and expectations. This applies across many parts of public service and has its versions in the public sector, supporting agencies, the third sector and from access to businesses in an affordable way for those who need commercial services.
Policing is one key area where there have been significant changes in risk and threats that we all face from those who wish us harm and from criminals whether individuals or organised groups. Hampshire Constabulary has had to absorb savings imposed by the economic situation that found itself in crisis in 2008 and remains constrained today.
And these factors – the need to make economies, the absence of growth to meet new demand, the changes in what prevention, detection and investigation of crimes need in terms of skills (increasingly digital) and change in proactive responses by our Constabulary, and the impact of other partner pressures that can create additional loading on policing – sit alongside the essential need to maintain change and updating of our approaches, innovation that will support us into the future.
I, as Police and Crime Commissioner, know we must continue to make efficiencies wherever they can be found. And this year the Constabulary will deliver a further £9M of savings. But even with these efficiencies it is no longer possible to sustain all that we would wish to do – and difficult decisions will be needed unless there are additional funding streams. We are already feeling the stretch.
Hampshire Constabulary were recently assessed as the third most value for money force per head of population. And when you combine this with the external inspections by HMICFRS assessing us as generally Good, this shows that our Constabulary are professional and economic. But being an outlier for Value For Money does increasingly equate to ‘under-funded’ when compared to others. For example, again externally and independently assessed, my area receives £47.7M less than the median force and we are one of the largest.
Since becoming PCC, I have prioritised making the case for a fairer National Funding Formula. The argument that an update is needed is compelling and the pressures as we wait for one grow.
If government funding continues to be worked out in the same way our area will continue to be unfairly disadvantaged from underfunding. This will adversely affect the ability to sustain what Hampshire Constabulary delivers today and into the future to defeat those who wish us harm and engage in criminal actions.
I have initiated a three year funding review to mitigate risk and to allow for implementation of changes in a planned way. It is often the case that urgent actions cannot find the best solutions for the longer term and narrow the options to those that can be done quickly. Having a three year view will also allow greater confidence to those we serve that these plans are deliberate, focused on their safety and strategic.
But these potential changes will be hard and not without impact on the risks we face. I have challenged the Chief Constable to tell me what can be achieved within our budget and how she is ensuring we are delivering for those at greatest risk.