Panel Supports Police Budget Proposal
The funding of Gwent Police and the provision of policing services in Gwent forms part of PCC Ian Johnston's statutory duties. To ensure that all the people who live in Gwent have an efficient and effective police service which provides value for money, Mr Johnston is required to determine the budget for 2016/17 and then set the Police Precept (the proportion of the cost of policing paid from your council tax).
As a result of a significant reduction in Central Government grants to frontline policing over the last five years and continuing future cuts, Gwent Police will potentially face a deficit of £64 million between the period 2008/09 to 2020/21. To date, the policing service in Gwent has delivered over £37 million of efficiency savings to address this gap but the Force has also lost 300 officers.
In his Comprehensive Spending Review in November last year, Chancellor George Osborne pledged to protect police funding but it was subsequently made clear in the Home Office's Provisional Police Grant Settlement that the Government's calculations included an assumption that PCCs would increase the police's share of council tax by at least 2%. The settlement also revealed that Central Government grant funding for Gwent Police would be reduced by 0.6% from £72.917m to £72.501m in 2016/17 - a reduction of around £416,000 and that future annual cuts would also be a reality.
To partially offset the impact of this funding reduction and maintain frontline policing in Gwent as much as possible, the Police and Crime Panel, who are responsible for supporting and challenging the Commissioner's decisions, accepted his recommendation today to set the Council Tax Precept at 3.99% for 2016/17. This means that the average Gwent household* will pay an additional 16 pence a week for their policing and related services during 2016/17. To inform his decision, the Commissioner launched his 'Have Your Say' survey earlier this month which asked residents how much they would be willing to pay for their policing service. The majority of respondents said that they would be willing to pay more.
According to Ian Johnston, the impact of the cuts on policing and the assumption by the Government that PCCs would increase the police's share of council tax, left him with no option but to make the politically difficult decision of increasing the Precept to make up for the shortfall.
Welcoming the Police and Crime Panel's support, Ian Johnston, said: "This was a decision based purely on policing and not politics. We have lost more than three hundred officers in the last five years as a result of severe budget reductions and I had to set the precept at this level in order to maintain, as much as possible, a safe and appropriate level of frontline policing for our residents.
This increase unfortunately does not mean the end of the financial woes facing Gwent Police which still needs to make further savings to meet the demands of austerity and to address unavoidable future service pressures. The Chief Constable is also looking at recruiting officers this year to replace those who have retired or have left the service already. The Force has an on-going efficiency programme specifically looking at this area but there is more pain on the way with the Government reiterating its call for more collaboration, more efficiencies, and has highlighted that it intends to finish the job of reforming policing."
The Commissioner added: "I listened carefully to the views of the panel before making my decision. We had a healthy discussion and I am delighted to have their support."
In determining the budget requirement for 2016/17, Mr Johnston has had to take into account his Police and Crime Plan and the Chief Constable's view of the financial resources required to deliver the operational requirements of the plan.
The full Precept report is available to view on the Gwent Police and Crime Panel website www.gwentpcp.org.uk
For further information about the office of the Police and Crime Commissioner visit www.gwent.pcc.police.uk