I am aware of the concerns raised by some people and groups about this year’s policing budget, the costs of my office, and perhaps even my role and that of other Police and Crime Commissioners.
I welcome these voices, because in order to move policing forward, make it sustainable into the future and create safe and thriving communities, we need to have a healthy debate about the best way to achieve this.
These are financially difficult times, not just in policing but across the public service sector. Colleagues in health, education, community care and Local Government are also facing their versions of these challenges from the need to modernise, update and afford the programmes we would all wish ideally to deliver for the public.
This year I sought to improve transparency of my whole budget for policing and beyond, including the money which is spent on supporting victims, preventing crime, the reduction of offending, and helping the vulnerable in our communities. Whilst there have been questions over how the budget is sourced and allocated, there has also been strong support for the value of the work delivered in partnership with many organisations across all of our communities.
In January, the Police and Crime Panel, as they do each year, reviewed my proposed plan and budget. They did not veto the increase in council tax precept put forward in the paper, and I have since increased the policing precept by £12 for a Band D property. However there was lively and public debate around some detail within the budget, and the panel also asked that their concerns and those of the public be taken into account before my final decision. Specifically they sought that any increase in funding for 2018/19 be put directly and only into retaining and enhancing the services provided by police officers and staff.
My considerations and subsequent decisions have been set out in a public letter to the Chairman of the Police and Crime Panel, but in short are as follows:
However, even with a significant rise in council tax, the money the government give us here in Hampshire is not enough. Through my campaigning for fairer funding I was able to influence the flexibility Commissioners were given in setting the local precept. This allows me to raise the precept in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight by £12 per year. Without this flexibility and my decision to raise this sum, we would have been in a significantly worse position immediately and with impact on the front line and local policing particularly. In those circumstances I would have set a different budget, but the one now possible will be better for keeping us SAFER.
Whilst I support the Chief Constable in her setting the operational plan, including efficiencies that she proposes, I have insisted and will continue to insist that she brief me regularly on risks to operational effectiveness, and keeps appropriate pressure for further efficiencies and savings. Together, these will enable changes that support modern operationally effective policing that will continue to defeat those who wish us harm, as well as reducing crime and protecting the vulnerable. I take the same challenging approach to my commissioning work, demanding appropriate reports of the effectiveness of delivery in these areas as I seek to maximise the benefit to the public who we protect.
There is no better time than this to be innovative, to have new ideas, to try new and different ways of doing things, both within and beyond policing.
I recognise that sometimes doing things differently creates resistance, but in having a healthy debate about it we can ensure we move forward with a shared understanding and common purpose.
My core purpose remains keeping us all SAFER.