Why the new police chief must rebel – or make cuts
THE incoming regional police chief must defy the Government over council tax increases – or dig an "unthinkable" £1.6million black hole into the force's finances, it has emerged.
Devon and Cornwall Police are already grappling with having to make savings of £50million by 2015, which will shrink officer numbers from 3,500 to 2,810.
Some 500 police staff will also be axed.
Now it has emerged that the new police and crime commissioner could put a further hole in the force's budget if they accept the Government's offer of a one per cent uplift in grant in exchange for freezing its share of council tax.
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The Police Federation, the staff association which represents constables, sergeants and inspectors, said that could cost the force the equivalent of another 50 officers.
"Prior to the cuts the force had 3,500 officers," Sergeant Nigel Rabbitts, chairman of the Devon and Cornwall federation branch said. "Reducing that number to 3,200 has been a challenge and reducing it below 3,200, we believe, is not sustainable.
"The force can not deliver an effective service, the service that the public expect and deserve and that officers want to provide, with less than that.
"Obviously the decision on the level of council tax rests with the new commissioner.
"But the repercussions of another cut in the budget are unthinkable."
Chancellor George Osborne has announced an extension to the deal for councils, police forces, and fire services.
However, it is worth only one per cent instead of the 2.5 per cent offered last year.
Devon and Cornwall Police Authority – which will be replaced by the commissioner in November – has based its medium term financial strategy on increase in council tax precept of 2.6 per cent a year.
Accepting the one per cent offer would leave the force another £1.6million short.
Alison Seabeck, Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View, said the financial constraints "made a mockery" of the Government's arguments for commissioners.
"This is central Government again telling policing areas around the country what money they will be able to raise and what they will have to spend," she said. "Potentially it does completely tie their hands financially and it does put additional pressure on an already over-stretched police service."