Pressure for fairer funding for Lincolnshire Police must continue, says councillor
Councillors have called for reassurance that pressure will be put on the next Government for a fairer funding formula for Lincolnshire Police.
Conservative Lincolnshire County Councillor Barry Young expressed concerns over future officer numbers to police and crime commissioner (PCC) Marc Jones during a meeting of the Lincolnshire Police and Crime Panel on Friday.
Referring to analysis of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s pledge to increase officer numbers by 20,000 in the next three years, he said: “It’s extremely worrying that [in the report] it becomes clear that even allowing for an additional recruitment of another 50 officers that strength in 2020/21 will reduce from 1,100 to around 1,070 – a net loss of 30.”
The report outlined how a loss of reserves to fund the officers would result in the loss.
“Living from hand to mouth is no longer sustainable and it’s acknowledged that a longer-term solution lies in a revision of the funding formula.”
However, he added: “The formula has been out there for years and there’s no sign of it coming to fruition.”
Mr Jones said he would do what he could to support Chief Constable Bill Skelly in preparing staffing numbers, but said they could only work to the facts when it came to funding and prepare for “if” additional funding came in.
He pointed to previous successful applications for funding which had seen £1.8 million awarded to the county and, along with a hike in council tax, had prevented officer losses previously predicted earlier this year.
He added that work had been ongoing to give officers the right tools for the job and committed to pushing for a new formula.
Following the meeting he said: “I’m very pleased with the level that we’ve been able to maintain.
“But we absolutely want to do more, and we want a future government to deliver us a three year funding settlement at the very least, which will make it much easier to plan for the longer term.
“We want to make sure that we’ve got sufficient officers to keep the community safe and there isn’t a definitive number around that because I think it’s fair to say if they gave us enough funding for 1,500 officers, we could keep them all fully employed and very busy, and there would still be crime to tackle and harm to tackle in society.
“It’s very welcome that all the main parties now are saying that officer numbers are something they would invest in.”
He said Lincolnshire was “ahead of the curve” in planning for extra funding and was “ready to go” with recruitment and training.
“It’s really a case of working with whoever is in government to make sure that they recognise that rural policing is just as important if not more so than some other parts of policing across the country.”
Meanwhile, the force could be consulting on next year’s budget without knowing how much money they will get from Government because of the General Election.
Mr Jones told councillors on the panel that the financial settlement for police forces would usually be announced at the beginning of December, enabling consultation on things such as council tax rises to be completed by February.
However, due to the national campaign now taking place, Lincolnshire Police could be asking residents about their priorities and appetite to pay extra without knowing what it will be getting from higher up.
Marc Jones said: “The challenge is if we don’t find out how much money we’re going to get from national government until the new year, it makes those timescales exceedingly tight.
“We could be in the position of consulting on council tax increases without knowing how much money we’re going to get from national government which is not ideal.”
Lincolnshire Police faces a shortfall of £6.5 million and although Mr Jones has been using reserves to support the gap previously this was no longer possible.
The deficit equates to a 16% rise in the police’s part of the precept, however, at this stage council tax hikes for the next financial year are capped at 2%.
Unless additional funding can be brought in, this could mean further staff reductions.
“So, we’re waiting to see what the new government’s approach will be to council tax capping and funding national contributions,” said Mr Jones.
“We need to know all of that before we can really look forward to what budget we’ve got.”
More by this authorDaniel Jaines, Local Democracy Reporter