Open Letter to the Home Secretary (17 Dec 2012)

Dear Home Secretary,

On Thursday 19 December, the Government will be informing police and crime commissioners across England and Wales of the funding that they will be receiving towards policing in their areas. After your recent meeting with all the newly elected police and crime commissioners, I am hoping that your announcement will show that you have listened to our concerns about the negative impact on policing of any more decisions to reduce our funding.

As the Police and Crime Commissioner of a police area that receives almost 80% of its funding from central Government, I have already been hit harder than most others by the blanket 20% cut to funding from 2011/12 to 2014/15. Other areas have less need for Government support and are more able to cope with the cut, as a larger share of their spending is funded locally through the council tax.  In West Yorkshire, our savings target for the first two years of the Spending Review was £64m, and this has meant a reduction of 1,400 police officers and staff already, with more to come.

Although I am not at all keen to levy large increases in the council tax in West Yorkshire, I also know that it does not have to go up by much before it falls foul of Government excessiveness rules which would trigger a costly local referendum. I am currently gauging public opinion on the amount people are willing to pay for their police service through my "Listening to You First" campaign.  I firmly believe that the resources raised locally to pay for the police service should be a matter for local agreement, and we should not be dictated to in this byWhitehall.

Although grants to freeze the council tax are attractive on the surface, their one-off nature simply creates problems for the future.  Meeting the gap left when the grant stops inevitably means higher council tax increases or even more cuts to service provision.

I am grateful that you have already agreed to protect central government funding for the police in 2013/14 from the further reductions announced in the Chancellor's Autumn Statement. However, I urge you to consider other measures that would move towards a fairer funding system for all force areas. As an example, the funding formula that the Government uses to calculate how much we will all receive has been in place for many years but is still not being fully applied. The damping applied to the formula takes money from larger forces and gives it to the smaller ones, who you will recall are already not as harshly impacted by the 20% across-the-board cuts. West Yorkshire loses nearly £10m a year from the application of damping and this amount would be a welcome boost to the budget if it was returned to us.

I hope that you will also consider protecting the Community Safety Fund, which enables the police and partner agencies to target issues that they can work on jointly. The fund is used for a range of initiatives which are having a real impact on crime and anti-social behaviour. Any reduction in funding will require difficult decisions to be made, with a consequential drop in service delivery.

On Thursday, I will of course be studying the figures in the settlement very closely to assess the full implications for West Yorkshire. If the settlement is unfavourable, I would intend to seek a meeting with the Police Minister at the earliest opportunity to make representations on behalf of my communities about its impact.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Burns-Williamson
Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire

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