That money has seen officer numbers rise to record strength and reopened seven police enquiry offices, with more to come before the end of the year.
Much of that money has come from local taxpayers, who have told me consistently that they want more police officers in their communities. Central Government, too, has played its part, with the three-year officer uplift programme adding 20,951 officers to forces across England and Wales. Six hundred of these were added to Devon and Cornwall Police’s ranks by March this year, taking force strength to a figure greater than at any other time in the organisation’s history.
Local taxpayers have done their bit to support our efforts to create safer, more resilient communities. Now it is time for central Government to address an inherent unfairness, the fact that we see a huge increase in our population in the summer months yet receive no extra money to police these visitors.
My team found that our ‘summer surge’ equates to having an additional 6.8% population when spread across the year. At this time of year the number of incidents that Devon and Cornwall Police must deal with increases substantially. These incidents are not only crime related but are linked to road traffic collisions, missing people and calls for help from people who are experiencing mental ill health.
It is something I have campaigned about for years. In 2019 I and politicians from around the peninsula presented then Policing Minister with a dossier outlining the challenges faced by Devon and Cornwall Police. It contained a raft of data, including the fact that that there had been a 14% increase in incidents between April and October in Devon and Cornwall, the largest increase amongst English and Welsh forces.
Last October I submitted evidence to the Home Office’s Call for Information on Sparsity and Seasonality – part of its work to develop a new funding formula for policing.
The impact of sparsity in our fleet services is particularly evident. In the 12 months to August 2022 over 25 million miles were travelled by Devon and Cornwall Police. A significant variation is seen between our Plymouth policing area and our more rural areas, with both miles travelled and mileage costs more than double the rate of Plymouth in rural areas despite significantly higher rates of crimes and incidents per head in Plymouth.
The good news is that our work to bring this to the attention of Government ministers appears to be bearing fruit.
On Monday (3 July) Policing Minister Chris Philp, in an answer to a question by North Devon MP Selaine Saxby, said “rurality, sparsity and seasonality, particularly seasonal tourism”, were likely to be considered as part of a consultation into a new funding formula.
The formula determines how much each Police and Crime Commissioner receives for their respective forces from central government, with the rest of the budget made up from the policing ‘precept’ added to council tax bills. The Government intends to consult on this new formula ‘in due course’.
Devon and Cornwall’s rurality and sparsity add to the challenge of dealing with the visitor influx and it is fantastic that decision-makers in Westminster are hearing our message. I will continue to make the case that Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are worthy of additional central Government investment so we can maintain the force area as one of the safest in England and Wales for our resident populations and those who choose to holiday in this wonderful part of the world.
I look forward to taking part in the forthcoming consultation on this formula and will be galvanising our partners to do so too.