A huge amount of work goes into this meeting and supporting documents, both in my office and the force’s financial department. Staff and officer pay, investment in technology, estates and victim services all must be considered, alongside proposals for any new interventions and spending that the Chief Constable and I wish to implement.
As with many organisations, we are hugely impacted by high inflation at the moment, and must factor this into all calculations.
The proposals laid before our public and panel were for a £384m overall budget for the force, up from £372m in the current year. That will be made up of £218m from a central Government grant and £166m raised from council tax. The budget will see a below inflation increase of 6% in the policing element of council tax, equating to £15 a year for a band D property.
The role of the councillors who sit on this panel is to scrutinise the plans and challenge our approach. As any members of the public attending the meeting or watching online will have seen, they fulfilled this role, probing the strategic intent behind the figures and working out the implications for the communities they represent for almost two hours.
The panel has a right to veto the precept proposal, so I am really pleased that this year’s was approved unanimously.
Budgeting for an organisation like the police is not a dull job crunching numbers but inextricably linked to strategy and how policing connects with the public. In its headline reporting on this meeting, the Falmouth Packet newspaper described it as a ‘community budget’ and I think that is a fair and accurate summary.
Our new Chief Constable Will Kerr, with his years of experience in Northern Ireland and Scotland, understands the vital role that neighbourhood teams have in understanding communities, preventing crime and establishing confidence in policing.
Policing this next year will be more challenging and difficult than in recent years with some difficult decisions to be made, but it will enable us to maintain record police officer numbers of 3,610 and continue my programme of reopening police stations to the public.
This year we have reopened six police stations, enhancing people’s ability to report crime, get prevention advice or help for victims in person. In 2023/24 we will be able to open a further six, meaning many thousands more people will be have a greater opportunity to contact the police in their own local area than they have been in years.
There is clearly public support to reopen front desks with 70% of those who took part in my recent policing priorities survey saying they supported more investment in this project.
Decisions will take into consideration location feasibility, distance from existing front desks, public demand and a view from operational police officers. It will mean more job opportunities as we seek community minded people to represent the force.
These new front desks and police officers will be especially useful in our busy summer period, which sees huge numbers of visitors flocking to Devon and Cornwall.
Householders across Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly will soon be receiving a leaflet from me explaining what we have done in the past year with their investment, as well as plans for investment in their communities.
I hope it will reassure them that we have listened to their concerns and are spending their money wisely.
If you missed last week’s Police and Crime Panel meeting and would like to watch it then you can do so via the Plymouth City Council website here: (8) Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Panel 27/01/23 - YouTube