Policing in Kent could go into ‘meltdown’ and able only to deal with emergencies if £46.5m of government cuts to the force are implemented. The Kent Police Federation issued the warning after the police commissioner Ann Barnes set out her spending plans for the year, including cuts of £14.5m and a tax hike of 1.99%. The commissioner said the force would have to shed 115 jobs as part of a budget squeeze caused largely by government cuts. At the same time, a report has warned that on top of this year’s savings, a staggering £46.5m more would need to cut from budgets over the next two years to balance the books up to 2018. The report said cuts to frontline officers may be needed in future years as the ability to protect them “will be severely limited in the face of further grant cuts over the medium term.” It warns that those cuts “could be even worse” if the government squeezed the police budget further, as is likely. Ian Pointon, the chairman of the Kent Police Federation, warned that if those cuts were implemented, it would lead to meltdown in the force.
“There will be a meltdown, make no bones about it. The police will be reduced to a fire brigade emergency service, reactive rather than proactive. There will not be enough money to do anything pro-active. A lot of frontline policing relies on support staff and they won’t be there.”
“We are going back to the levels of funding we saw in the 1980s. People are really going to start noting the difference. It will be devastating. The public will still say they want more bobbies on the beat but that will be out of the picture.”
Mrs Barnes acknowledged the challenges ahead but said this year’s plans for a 1.99% council tax hike, raising an additional £1.6m, meant job loses were not as bad as they could have been.
“Put bluntly, this £1.6 million means that we shall not have to lose a further 30 officer posts to balance the books. This is very good news indeed,”
she said. The commissioner’s budget means average bills for the policing element of the council tax will go up to £147.15 for homes in Band D – equivalent to 5.5pence a week. Of the 115 jobs being axed, half will be through staff retiring or leaving and not being replaced. Some money will be saved this year through £4.1m of so-called “efficiency savings” and through more collaboration with Essex police, saving £2.5m. The commissioner’s own office will see its own budget cut by £100,000. The force has already had to save £50m in the last three years, losing 500 jobs in the process. The draft budget was approved by the Kent and Medway Crime Panel today (Tues).
Herne Bay Gazette, April 9th 2015