More tough times ahead as police budget is slashed

By Ian Dipple Wednesday 12 February 2014 Updated: 14/02 22:28

POLICE bosses plan to raid their savings and increase council tax by about ten per cent over the next five years as they bid to balance the books and protect frontline services.

Any reduction in police officer numbers has also been ruled out until after the next General Election in 2015 when the scale of future government funding cuts are clear.

West Mercia Police needs to save over £30million up until 2018/19 of which £20.7million has still to be found.

The plan over the next five years is to take £24.7million out of the force's reserves to support the force as it transforms the way it works and forges closer links with neighbouring Warwickshire Police as part of their alliance agreement.

Another £5million will be taken out to improve the police response to cyber, rural and business crime, with £6.9million set aside to deliver future savings and investment. Overall the force's reserves will shrink from almost £50million to just £12.7million.

The police portion of the council tax will also be increased by either 1.99 per cent or 1.49 per cent - depending on where the Government sets the threshold for a referendum - each year for the next five years.

The proposed increase from April will add £3.56 a year to the average band D bill, the equivalent of about seven pence per week.

The Government has offered police forces a grant to freeze bills but police chiefs say it only lasts for two years and was only the equivalent of a one per cent rise, which would result in the need to save another £3.6million.

Barrie Sheldon, deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for West Mercia, said technology would play a key part in the transformation of the service with plans eventually to digitise evidence gathering and avoid the need for officers to return to the police station, so they were out on patrol more of the time.

The plan was presented to councillors at a meeting of West Mercia's Police and Crime Panel on Tuesday (February 4) where the increase in council tax was backed, with the exception of councillors from Shropshire who felt the force could find further savings elsewhere.

But Coun Roger Berry, from Worcester City Council, said he sympathised with the force's position.

"Some unrealistic expectations are being placed on us and we have to send a message and make it clear to the Government we can't go on like this. If we believe in a civilised society we have to have a reasonable level of spending on local services."

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