Posted: Tuesday 1st September 2015
How can we achieve more for less? For five years now, this question has dominated the minds of our public service leaders who’ve faced grossly reduced budgets, dwindling resources and increasing service demands. It’s a question we’ve surprisingly answered year in and year out through prudent estate management, waste reduction, workforce shrinkage and new technology but now that we’ve squeezed every penny out of our physical assets and work streams, what room is there left? Police forces are operating close to the bone and unless there are drastic changes to the structure of the service in its entirety, then we will soon start to deliver less with less.
Not so long ago I published my annual report which highlighted the positive outcomes of my community safety work during 2014-15. Many of the successes were born out of fresh approaches and strong supportive relationships with other agencies outside of the police. While they were driven by financial restrictions, they demonstrated all the same the good that can come from working together with partners and tackling problems jointly to make Nottinghamshire a safer place to live.
The predicted funding shortfalls over the next five years will make these kinds of improvements increasingly difficult to achieve, even with shared workloads. It’s necessary to consider what structural changes are needed to the police service as a whole and what new parameters are required regarding its roles and responsibilities.
At the beginning of this April there were nearly 128,000 police officers, a figure that looks set to fall to under 100,000 for the first time. This is the lowest level since the mid-19070s. Meanwhile, the funding shortfall could be approximately £400 million in the first year and increasing up to as high as £1.2 billion by 2020.
The public values its local police services yet it is these very services that will be called into question if forces lose their ability to respond to greater levels of threats. This is a very real possibility with the severe and ongoing financial hardships we face.
Forces will feel the proposed budget reductions differently and I am fighting with my PCC colleagues nationally for a fairer system that would minimise the impact of cuts on the more vulnerable areas. We also want greater freedom to set local council tax plans, more flexible approaches to income generation and a commitment from the government to ensure the police service is adequately compensated for commercial and residential development expansion.
Forces have shown individually how much can be achieved with external partnerships. We now need a national framework for sharing our responsibilities with other sectors and industries to increase resilience and respond to complex changes in criminality.
We approach the remaining months of 2015 with both eyes firmly on our future financial position. With more savings required, a radical rethink is needed on how we as a service are organised, the services we offer the public and the roles and skills that are required to help us meet the ongoing threats to public safety.
Police and Crime Commissioner