I hear regularly from MPs, elected councillors, local residents and businesses that more frontline policing would be welcomed and I have put local policing at the heart of our Police and Crime Plan.
In meetings with Government ministers I have consistently made the case that central Government cuts to funding have been detrimental to policing.
In 2017 I committed to increasing police officer numbers by 100 over the term of my office (by 2020) to take the total number back up to 3,000.
However, the Government has recently offered a funding opportunity that could both speed up that recruitment and further increase the number of officers.
In Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, 63% of the police’s total budget comes from central Government, with the remainder raised through council tax contributions, known as the policing precept. As your Police and Crime Commissioner it is my decision, in consultation with the Police and Crime Panel, whether to change the policing precept.
Previously, legislation has limited this increase to 1.99% but for 2018/19 the Government has announced that PCCs can now increase the precept by up to £12 per year (or 23 pence per week) for a Band D property.
This is the only opportunity we have to increase investment . I know that policing is an essential part of maintaining safe, resilient and connected communities. However, continued austerity, the increasing demands of policing and the changing nature of crime means that we need to do more to transform our workforce.
So I want to give serious consideration to increasing the precept by £12 per year (Band D), in 2018/19. This would provide Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Police with around £7m additional income which will help to ensure we can protect frontline policing. This would allow Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer to move forward more quickly with his plans to transform the workforce.
Good progress is being made with workforce transformation, with police officer recruitment increased, new police staff investigators trained and in post and a pilot remote statement service operating across Devon and Cornwall to reduce the burden on front line officers. This work would happen more quickly should the additional £7m funding be in place.
The chief constable’s neighbourhood policing review is developing a new model of neighbourhood policing and will come forward with recommendations at the end of March. Improved connectivity with our communities across policing, as well as in neighbourhood teams, is the heart of our Police and Crime Plan and the chief constable has now put in place a clear and coherent framework for connectivity across the area which will start to operate in full from April 2018.
I remain committed to achieving previously identified savings and the chief constable will deliver £9.6m of savings by 2021/22 through a combination of efficiency, productivity and transformation. Devon and Cornwall Police has a strong track record of achieving savings with £54.4m saved since 2009. Significant future savings will be delivered through regional collaboration and the strategic alliance with Dorset.
I have worked closely with the chief constable and the two chief financial officers to construct these budget proposals and I will present my plans for the budget at the next Police and Crime Panel meeting on 2 February.
Last week I launched a poll to ask members of the public if they would be willing to pay an addition £1 a month to support policing where they live. The response was more than we could have expected with 3,500 people completing the short survey online.
So, if you would like to take part in the poll, and have your say on the plan, there is still time.
The online poll will be available until Sunday (28 January) and it can be accessed by following this link > www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/G2S8QP7