Hampshire police sound budget cuts warning

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TOUGH choices lie ahead for Hampshire police as they struggle to cope with more budget cuts, the county’s leading policeman and its crime commissioner said today.

The warning was sounded in a joint statement by Chief Constable Andy Marsh and Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Hayes ahead of today’s Comprehensive Spending Review announcement by Chancellor George Osborne.

Chancellor George Osborne speaking in the House of Commons in London about his spending plans''Picture: PA Wire

Chancellor George Osborne speaking in the House of Commons in London about his spending plans''Picture: PA Wire

He announced a six per cent reduction in the Home Office budget, as well as grants to local councils.

Mr Osborne’s second CSR outlined how much money the government wants to spend across departments in the year 2015-2016.

Sweeping cuts in the last CSR in 2010 saw Hampshire Constabulary forced to find £55m of savings.

Mr Osborne says he has to find cuts worth £11.5bn across Whitehall department, although some areas, including health, international aid and schools are ‘ringfenced’.

A statement from Hampshire Constabulary said: ‘This confirms that there are tough choices ahead for the police, especially in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight where we already have the third lowest costing force.

‘That is why, as we examine the detail of today’s announcement, we will be asking: How do we protect critical frontline resource? What do the public want us to prioritise? And, what do we need to stop doing to deliver against that mandate?

‘Thanks to the commitment of so many police staff and officers, we are on track to deliver savings of £55m in response to the first spending review. Victim satisfaction of the service they receive from police is increasing, and with partners and the support of the community we have cut crime by record amounts.

‘But, at a time when police are being asked to do more than ever before, something will have to give.

‘We have already laid some firm foundations for the future.

‘This includes building new partnerships with a range of other organisations, driving down the long term cost of the police estate by selling unnecessary buildings, and investing in cutting edge technology such as body worn video.

‘Ultimately, the decisions that we make in the coming months must enable us to do two things; protect the safety of our communities in the long term and further improve the level of service that we provide to victims of crime.

‘The public will stand for nothing less.’

John Apter, the chairman of Hampshire Police Federation added, ‘The additional cuts to the policing budget reaffirms to many that policing is not a priority for the coalition Government. Hampshire Constabulary has already slashed £55m from its budgets which has left the frontline with no resilience; there is no slack in the system.

‘The recent cuts to policing have not been easy. Some areas of policing are creaking at the seams whilst we continue to do more for less. These latest cuts will inevitably lead to a further reduction in service which will be to the detriment of the public. Policing is the public’s priority, it should be the Governments.

‘These further cuts come when more and more is expected from the police. Other areas of the public sector have made the decision to stop doing things, policing does not have that luxury and it is the hard working rank and file officers who pick up the extra work. I now call on the Chief Constable and the Police and Crime Commissioner to tell the rank and file what they can stop doing, because something has to give.’

Ten of thousands of public sector workers are to lose their automatic annual pay rises, the Chancellor said today as he unveiled a spending review involving £11.5 billion in further cuts.

He claimed that Britain was “moving out of intensive care - and from rescue to recovery”.

However, he said the spending review involved “difficult decisions”, adding: “There never was an easy way to bring spending under control.”

Mr Osborne said public sector pay rises will be limited to an average of up to one per cent for 2015-16.

He went on: “But the biggest reform we make on pay is to automatic progression pay.

“This is the practice whereby many employees not only get a pay rise every year, but also automatically move up a pay grade every single year - regardless of performance.

“Some public sector employees see annual pay rises of seven per cent.

“Progression pay can at best be described as antiquated; at worst, it’s deeply unfair to other parts of the public sector who don’t get it and to the private sector who have to pay for it.

“So we will end automatic progression pay in the Civil Service by 2015-16.

“And we are working to remove automatic pay rises simply for time served in our schools, NHS, prisons and police.”

The move, from which the armed forces will be excluded, is bound to provoke fury from public sector trade unions, who claim their members are already paying the price of austerity.

But the Chancellor said: “Keeping pay awards down and ending automatic progression pay means that, for every pound we have to save in central administration, we can better limit job losses.”

Mr Osborne announced that the council tax freeze, due to come to an end next April, would be extended for the next two years.

He said that would mean nearly £100 off the average council tax bill for families.

But he warned that local councils would have to make “the kind of sacrifices central government is making”.

He said the local government resource budget would be reduced by 10 per cent in 2015-16, but claimed that when changes affecting local government are taken into account including local income and other central government funding, local government spending would be reduced by around two per cent.

The cuts in public spending were criticised in Portsmouth by the Unison union.

Joanna Killian, chair of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers, said the spending round had made “some important steps forward and removed some of the Whitehall red-tape from decisions that should be made in local communities”.

Bur she warned: “Local councils are running out of ways to save money and that puts the future of local services on the line.”

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do not escape the squeeze with all three required to find savings of 2%, with a budget for Scotland of £25.7bn, Wales on £13.6bn and Northern Ireland on £9.6bn.

Mr Osborne also said that the Ministry of Defence would face further cuts to its civilian workforce as its budget was maintained in cash terms at £24bn - representing a real terms cut.

But the equipment budget will rise by one per cent a year - as previously promised - and there will be no further reductions in military personnel.

The intelligence services - MI5, MI6 and GCHQ - emerged among the winners with a 3.4% increase in their annual budget.

But there will be cuts of 6% at the Home Office, 8% at the Foreign Office and 7% at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport - although funding for elite sports will be protected.

Winter fuel payments for expat pensioners who have retired to sunnier climes will be linked to a “temperature test” from autumn 2015, the Chancellor confirmed.

“People in hot countries will no longer get it. It is, after all, a payment for winter fuel,” he said.

A “limit on the nation’s credit card” will be brought in, he said, adding: “We will act to ensure that we will stop the cost of paying the Winter Fuel Payments made to those who live abroad rising in a way that no one ever intended.

“Paying out even more money to people from all nationalities who may have worked in this country years ago but no longer live here is not a fair use of the nation’s cash.”

Mr Osborne also announced that jobseekers will be required to come to the jobcentre every week rather than once a fortnight and the introduction of a new seven day wait before people can claim benefits.

He went on: “From now on, if claimants don’t speak English, they will have to attend language courses until they do. This is a reasonable requirement in this country.”

The Chancellor promised investment in education and accelerated school reform, with the overall budget of the Education Department increasing and schools spending protected in real terms.

To transfer power - and money - from town halls and central bureaucracy to schools he said grants to councils and spending on central agencies were being reduced while cash going to schools will go up.

He also announced schools spending will be allocated in a “fairer way” so the lowest funded local authorities will receive an increase in their per pupil funding through a new national funding formula.

He said the pupil premium, introduced “to make sure we are fair to children from low income backgrounds”, will be protected in real terms “so every poor child will have more cash spent on their future than ever before”.

He also announced funding for an unprecedented increase in the number of Free Schools - 180 in 2015-16.