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Wednesday 22 February 2012

Eleven Pence a Week Rise Safeguards Policing


The policing element of council tax in Cheshire is being increased by 3.94 per cent. It will add £5.69 a year; eleven pence a week, to the council tax bill for a Band D home.

Margaret Ollerenshaw, Chairman of Cheshire Police Authority said, "We are aware of the financial strains many people are facing at the moment. We looked carefully at the idea of freezing council tax at last year′s level. After careful consideration, we decided this small increase would help maintain front line policing services and keep the people of Cheshire safe.

"It means the reduction in the number of police officers in Cheshire during 2012/13 can be limited to 25, instead of the 48 required if we opted to freeze council tax."

This budget is the final one to be set by the Police Authority before the Authority is replaced by a Police and Crime Commissioner in November. The Chairman described it as "arguably the most difficult of the seventeen budgets set by the Authority".

She said, "We are working against a background of budget cuts.

£33 million in savings must be found by 2014/15, compared to the figures for 2010/11. That level of saving is not easy. It is depressing to see the level of cuts we are having to make following the steady investment we have made over the life of the Authority to ensure the Constabulary has the capability and capacity to make Cheshire safer and to protect the public from harm.

"So far the performance of the Constabulary has remained stable and we have not yet seen any increase in crime, or the deterioration in satisfaction levels which we feared."

During 2011/12 the Authority reduced the budget by £12 million. During 2012/13 another £13.1 million in savings must be achieved. Inflation has also added to the basic cost of equipment and services.

Margaret Ollerenshaw said,

"We have identified the savings required next year. As more than eighty per cent of the budget relates to people, it is regrettable that the scale of the cuts means unavoidable reductions in the number of police officers and staff.

"We were offered a one-off grant to freeze council tax for 2012/13. If we had accepted, the result would have been a shortfall for the following year when the grant was not available. That would have meant even more savings in 2013/14. We have always taken our responsibility to provide an efficient and effective police service very seriously. We must take a long term view of the impact of our decisions on policing, not just a one-year view.

"As a result we decided on a small increase in council tax, as requested by Dave Whatton,the Chief Constable, which will offset some of the reduction in police officer posts. The Chief Constable gave us his assurance that this funding will be used to maintain visible and accessible officers in our communities.

"To achieve the savings required by the Coalition Government we are also working with partners to share costs and remove waste and duplication. We are taking steps to share specialist functions and equipment with other police forces and agencies. We have created a Business Services Centre which has achieved savings in finance, human resources, estates and procurement. In April, there will be further changes when some of these services will be shared with Northamptonshire Police Authority in a ground-breaking initiative to deliver further savings whilst protecting front line resources.

"Every aspect of how policing is delivered in Cheshire is under review in an attempt to find ways of increasing efficiency and productivity. With the cooperation and hard work of officers and staff the results, so far, have been positive. Statistics issued by the Government in January showed an eight per cent reduction in crime in Cheshire, with nearly 5,300 fewer victims than in the previous year. Reductions in burglary, violence against the person and vehicle crime were significantly better than the national figures.

"We need this success to continue. During the next nine months we will continue to work extremely closely with the Chief Constable to minimise the impact of the cuts on the service we deliver to the people of Cheshire."

"In November the Police Authority will hand over its duties and powers to an elected Police and Crime Commissioner. We are working to make sure the transition is achieved in a secure and effective way. We believe this 3.94 per cent increase will help to put the Commissioner on a sound footing to maintain policing in Cheshire at a level where it is a safe place to live, work or visit."

The total budget for policing Cheshire in 2012/13 will be £172.557 million; compared to £177.21 million in 2011/12.

The annual charge for a Band D Home will be £150.22, compared to £144.53 in 2011/12.

Police officer numbers are expected to reduce from 1998 at Mar 31st 2012 to 1973 at Mar 31st 2013.

The number of Police Community Support Officers is expected to rise from 215 to 222.

Other Police staff posts are expected to reduce from 1637 to 1510.

If the option to freeze the policing element of council tax had been taken, the total budget (including the £1.6million additional grant) would have been £170.411million.

The Authority sought wide consultation with the public on the budget. Methods used included roadshows, a webchat, meeting business representatives, an on line questionnaire and media releases. Nearly sixty per cent of the people who responded to the budget consultation survey were in favour of a small council tax increase and rejection of the additional one-off grant.

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