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Funding a force that’s fit for the future

In her latest blog Alison discusses the policing precept and encourages everyone to complete the speeding survey.

Last Thursday central government told police and crime commissioners how much money was likely to be made available for police forces in the next financial year. This ‘provisional settlement’ suggests that core grant funding will increase year on year by 2.1%, meaning an extra £3.4m for Devon and Cornwall Police.

I welcome the increase in investment in policing, but in reality the government is putting in less than half of the funding required, with the remainder having to be raised locally. The most significant announcement relates to the amount local council taxpayers can be asked to pay for policing, which increased to £24 (for a band D property) for the next financial year.

Unfortunately there are additional significant inflationary pressures on police budgets in England and Wales, and the Devon and Cornwall force is no exception. Funding will need to be found for the nationally-agreed police and staff pay settlements, as well as for existing policy commitments. There is a significant gap in the pension fund which is not going to be fully funded by central government.

This year I asked residents of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly if they would be prepared to ‘pay more to get more’. A survey conducted by my office suggested that a £12 rise in precept would be tolerated - provided we got on with recruiting and training more officers - so that’s exactly what we did.

The pressure on our police force certainly hasn’t waned in recent years. The public call on our staff and officers more than they used to, with one day this summer, during the World Cup and at the height of tourist season, being recorded as the second busiest day in the force’s history.

In the new year we’ll ask the public again to help us shape the way we fund policing in the region and I’d urge readers of this blog to let me know their views so we can shape the force budget accordingly. I am sure that if we do end up asking people to pay more they have every right to expect a larger police force – and one that is run very efficiently - for their money.

This combination of rising pressures and restricted budgets has made me consider ways in which we might generate new funds to pay for policing.

Councils also found out on last Thursday how much money they are likely to have next year. The Government is allowing more local authorities to keep a greater amount of the revenues they raise through business rates, using the principle that doing so will create councils that have a vested interest in boosting and growing the local economy.

I am currently exploring whether the public would support an approach that is not dissimilar in that it would see some of the revenues raised through speeding fines returned to local police forces so they could be spent on improving road safety.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I am extremely worried by the number of people killed and seriously injured on our roads, and I know the public are too. One of the projects funded through this year’s precept raise went to setting up the No Excuse roads policing team. I’m happy to say that this team is up and running and achieving great results in enforcing the law, taking unroadworthy vehicles off the road and educating drivers.

In November this team issued 168 traffic offence reports, made 15 arrests, conducted six positive drug swipes and made five positive breath tests. A total of 52 vehicles were seized, 45 were being driven with no insurance and seven because the driver did not have a valid driver’s licence.

Currently speeding drivers receive a fixed penalty notice of £100 (you can get a bigger fine for littering) and all of this is returned to the Treasury. If we were able to raise that fine by £30 and keep the difference it would generate around half a million pounds for policing in Devon and Cornwall - enough to double the size of this team and put more officers on the roads.

Early indications show that the vast majority of the public support this approach, which rewards law abiding motorists by making those who break the law and make our roads less safe pay for a greater proportion of the cost of policing.
I like the ‘polluter pays’ principle and think that a rise in fines would deter more drivers from breaking the limit, but I also know that this approach is not without controversy.

Whatever your opinion please make it known by taking a few minutes to answer three simple questions which can be found by following the link here until December 31 >

I wish all residents of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly a safe and happy Christmas and New Year and look forward to considering your views on this important issue, and others, in the new year.

Alison Hernandez