CHESHIRE’S new Tory police and crime commissioner, John Dwyer, is backing an almost 2% rise in next year’s police budget – but this will result in the loss of police officer and back-office posts.
Mr Dwyer’s proposed budget would see the loss of 35 staff posts and there has already been a reduction of 37 police officers through retirement and leavers – but resources will allow for the recruitment of 21 new officers next year.
To close the funding gap, the commissioner proposes increasing the police element of council tax by 1.99%, which just sneaks under the 2% limit which would trigger a local referendum.
Mr Dwyer must slash the £173m budget by up to £34m between now and 2017 through shrinking the workforce and spending less on buildings, supplies and capital projects.
He said: “I was overwhelmed by the support shown by the people I spoke to who said that they did not think that cuts should be applied to policing. Unfortunately, these are difficult times for all public sector services and savings must be found.”
But Mr Dwyer is refusing to toe the Conservative party line, which is to freeze the budget for council tax-payers and receive a 1% increase in central Government grant for two years in a row as a reward.
Mr Dwyer, whose election campaign was based on a non-political approach, says this would cause the funding gap to grow even greater than under his preferred action plan.
He claims it would eventually lead to an extra £5m cuts, equivalent to 160 officers.
But Mr Dwyer must still address a potential £29m funding gap and is suggesting an initial £8.3m savings when he sets the budget in March.
He added: “I made it clear in my pre-election campaign that I would not cut the front line and that special constables would be recruited to bolster numbers of neighbourhood officers.”
Despite the cuts, Mr Dwyer’s police and crime plan seeks to enhance front-line policing by tackling crime and anti-social behaviour, deal with serious and organised crime, support victims and witnesses, reinforce links with the community and promote partnerships with other forces and agencies.
The Police and Crime Panel can either accept or veto the proposal. If the panel vetoes the proposed precept then the commissioner will consider its report and propose a revised precept.