Cut in front-line police may be stopped by new commissioner
THE looming decline in police officer numbers on Plymouth's streets – caused by Government cuts and blamed for a recent rise in crime – could be halted.
Police and crime commissioner Tony Hogg is still weighing up his budget proposals for 2013-14, with no word yet on whether the public will be asked to pay more for policing.
But Mr Hogg, who published his police and crime plan yesterday, said he may be able to maintain the current strength of 3,100 across Devon and Cornwall.
"What we may be able to do is protect the numbers," said Mr Hogg, who was elected in November. "If there is one thing people want to know it is that we are doing our damndest to arrest the decline from 3,500 to 2,810.
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"I think [Chief Constable] Shaun Sawyer has got a good idea that he doesn't want to go down to the bottom number.
"My job, with him, is to protect those numbers and that will be the basis for parts of the plan and the budget decision."
Devon and Cornwall Police has been faced with making budget savings of £50million in the four years to 2015 to meet Government cuts. Police numbers had been forecast to drop by 700 to a low of 2,810 – a number last seen in the early 1980s.
About 500 police staff in the city and elsewhere in the region were also expected to lose their jobs.
But while hundreds of bobbies were being forced to retire, crime in the two counties spiked by seven per cent.
The pensions regulation, which compulsorily made officers retire after 30 years' service, was suspended last September after greater savings were achieved than had been expected – a trend which is thought to have continued.
Council tax Band D properties in Devon and Cornwall currently pay £159.66 a year for policing.
Mr Hogg may choose to increase that by up to two per cent, above which he would be forced to hold a referendum.
He also has the option of accepting a one-year government grant to freeze council tax levels although the cash is not built into the baseline.
Meanwhile, the fledgling police and crime panel in Devon and Cornwall has complained of the "very short time scale" available to consider possible tax rises.
As reported in yesterday's Herald, the panel, which is made up of local councillors and some independents, met for the first time in Plymouth on Thursday. Chairman Roger Croad, a Devon County Councillor, has written to the Home Office to complain about the lack of time it would have to examine budget proposals.
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