Chief constable Simon Bailey on the issues faced by Norfolk police
PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 November 2017 | UPDATED: 08:15 12 November 2017
Copyright Archant Norfolk 2015
Norfolk Police is dealing with a challenging set of circumstances due to reductions in the money it gets from central government. Here, chief constable Simon Bailey talks about the main issues the force faces.
Since I announced the Norfolk 2020 changes I have regularly been asked about the conflicting statements that have been made about my budget.
The majority of our income comes from two main sources. 58pc comes from the Home Office and 42pc comes from your council tax. We also get a small amount from other things such as charging for the policing of football matches or specific grants such as counter terrorism.
In 2010, Central Government, with the introduction of austerity, reduced the money available to us by over 25pc. As a result, I have had to oversee savings of over £30m to ensure we spend within our means.
In 2015, Central Government slowed the rate of savings they required and Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) were guided to raise the local council tax by the maximum amount (1.99pc) on an annual basis to maintain police budgets at 2015 levels. This approach means that we have a similar amount of money each year.
But our ‘cost of living’, like yours, is rising.
Inflation is climbing, the pay of our police officers and staff, which is nationally set, rises every year.
We also have to pay other statutory costs which are beyond our control.
For example, in the last two years alone, there have been increases in employer’s national insurance and employer’s pension costs of £3m. As a result of this our deficit continues to grow.
Only having the same amount of money as we had the previous year means we cannot afford to maintain the same resources.
It means that despite the additional contributions that you, as a council tax payer in Norfolk provide, we still have to make savings every year.
I understand how important that small increase in your bill is to you but it also really matters to us.
If the money we ask for in your council tax did not go up each year, the savings we would need to make would be even greater.
Without that precept rise, which Central Government is expecting to occur, the reductions in policing resource would need to be even deeper. In essence, the council tax rises you pay are helping me to protect the frontline.
In recent weeks there has been a lot of talk about reserves. Although today the balance reads a healthy £25m, I have planned the spend of this money over the next few years on improvements to our service such as mobile working, body worn video, estates and technological improvements to keep pace with the changing face of crime.
I am also often asked why I cannot make savings without reducing my headcount.
Over 80pc of our budget is spent on people.
Every year we continue to make savings on contracts, utilities and other non-pay related items, but with such a large amount of our money spent on people, significant reductions in budget inevitably lead to reductions in the number of people.
I am proud of our collaboration with our preferred partner Suffolk Constabulary and the millions of pounds this has saved through joint working while not adversely affecting our service. However, the savings opportunities are becoming harder to find.
Sadly, with over £8.9m needing to be saved in the last two years, this has meant I have had to make reductions to frontline policing. The recent Norfolk 2020 announcements reflect that.
The PCC will be consulting you about your council tax precept in the not too distant future.
From a Constabulary perspective, this funding stream is our lifeblood. A precept rise is not only expected by central government but vital to our service, and so the Constabulary will be putting the case to the PCC for him to raise by the maximum amount he can.
But it is sad to say, that even if your council tax rises by the maximum amount (1.99pc), unfortunately, it will not protect us from having to reduce further our officers and staff.
Whilst the operational challenges that I face in Norfolk are often complex, there is no doubt in my mind that trying to maintain the high standards of policing in Norfolk whilst balancing the books is the greatest challenge I face.
In the last seven years I am really proud of what we have achieved but due to the need for more savings I have to reduce costs further and that is why I am doing my best to lobby government and the PCC to provide more money to ensure that Norfolk can remain the safe county we all want it to be.