Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe wants to hear from the public about the future of policing in the county, as he launches a major new consultation ahead of deciding how funding should be prioritised in the year ahead.
The ‘Your Police, Your Views’ campaign aims to get opinions from across the whole county on what local people feel are the funding priorities for Warwickshire and how support services and community safety initiatives should be financed through grants and commissioning.
It comes as the Government set out its spending plans for 2021/22 in the Spending Review, announced yesterday (November 25) by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak. This confirmed funding remained in place for forces to continue to deliver the recruitment of 20,000 new police officers nationally, while also providing additional new money to tackle violent crime, money laundering and increased counter-terrorism policing.
The Chancellor’s announcement also signalled additional detail of how local police forces will be funded over the next financial year, with core central government grants likely to remain the same as this year, providing a flat-cash settlement. Police and Crime Commissioners will be given flexibility to raise the portion of Council Tax which pays for policing, known as the Police Precept, by up to £15 for a Band D property.
The continued economic uncertainty, the ongoing challenges of the pandemic and increasing costs and other pressures do however mean that changes will be needed in order to set a balanced budget for the years ahead.
Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe said: “The news that policing is to continue to receive funding to recruit additional officers is very welcome, as is the extra investment being made to tackle violent crime, economic crime and terrorism.
“In Warwickshire, we have seen policing numbers reach over 1,000 officers, thanks to record-breaking recruitment drives over the past 18 months. The end of the alliance with West Mercia Police has meant the force has rebuilt many services within Warwickshire and is looking at new and transformed ways of operating, aided by the additional officers we have recruited.
“Funding from local taxpayers has enabled a programme of investment to transform the technology, equipment and facilities which underpin frontline policing and more of this investment will be needed in the years ahead.
“Support services have benefited too, with additional funding keeping them available to give tailored help, as and when victims need it, despite the challenges brought by the coronavirus pandemic. I’ve also been able to fund programmes to divert people away from crime and schemes which help to prevent crime and improve community safety.
“But this good progress cannot mask that we are entering a difficult financial situation, both locally and nationally. As the Chancellor has outlined, the coronavirus pandemic has had a wide impact on people’s lives and been very damaging to the economy. The pressures on public sector finances have never been greater and all public authorities are faced with difficult decisions to make ends meet.
“I’m acutely aware that the coronavirus pandemic has also brought pressures to many families, individuals and businesses, whose financial circumstances are likely to be in a very different place to where they were just 12 months ago.
“So while I am keen to protect all of the investment in policing here in Warwickshire as much as possible, it’s clear that we cannot spend more money than we have. We still don’t have the full picture to determine our budgets but some of the key pieces are beginning to drop into place.
“I must look at all options to set a balanced budget, including potential changes to the Police Precept, as well as a package of measures to find efficiencies in the way policing services are delivered. It’s vital that every penny contributed by taxpayers is used in the most effective way possible and I will continue to ensure this is the case.
“Before I take any decisions on the budget, I want to understand from Warwickshire people what they feel the local priorities should be, both for how the police use their funding and what wider support should be available to the community through grants and commissioned services.
“I’ve launched a simple online survey to gather feedback, which I will be promoting heavily over the next few weeks, as it is vital that people have the chance to influence the decisions ahead. I’m also organising a number of online focus groups to ensure that the ongoing difficulties caused by the pandemic do not prevent me from getting opinions from as wide a range of people as possible.
“My final message is please do spare a little time to give me your views – they really do matter and will help to shape the future of policing across Warwickshire.”
The ‘Your Police, Your Views’ survey can be found online at: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/WPFundingSurvey and will run until early January 2021.