An extra 156 police officers - but is it enough for Hampshire?

A police numbers boost of 20,000 across the country was among the flagship non-Brexit policies announced by the third iteration of Conservative government since 2010.

Wednesday, 9th October 2019, 3:21 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th October 2019, 3:11 pm

Beyond that eye-catching and headline-generating promise the figures for each individual police force have started to come through.

Chief constable Olivia Pinkney told The News the county will be safer with a bolstered force previously emaciated by the loss of around 1,000 people.

In the first phase the Home Office has announced the county will get more officers – 156 of them out of the first 6,000 allocated.

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Southampton fans being escorted by police at Goldsmith Avenue, Portsmouth, as they played Pompey last month. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Many senior figures in the force have publicly welcomed the move – branded a ‘first small step’ by assistant chief constable Craig Dibdin. Crime commissioner Michael Lane said: ‘But it must be seen as but the latest step, with more to come.’

Others have been less pleased.

Alex Charge, of Hampshire Police Federation, represents rank-and-file officers.

Alex Charge of Hampshire Police Federation

The police inspector criticised the way numbers have been allocated. Insp Charge said it was worked out by the Home Office funding formula.

That is used each year to give annual funding. It takes into account various factors, including population size and licensed premises.

Top police figures in Hampshire say the way it is worked out leaves the force underfunded by around £47m each year.

Olivia Pinkney, Chief Constable of Hampshire Constabulary

When the 156 figure was announced by the Home Office Insp Charge tweeted: ‘It is a start and moving in the right direction but the allocation is based on the funding formula which is not fair to Hampshire and lets the public and officers down. This needs fixing now.’

He told The News: ‘We’re waiting for the new 20,000 uplift. We’ve got 156 which is a good start.

‘However, it’s based on funding formulae which is unfair to Hampshire and I don’t think it recognises the significant cuts we’ve had in Hampshire.

‘Cheshire police have lost something like 135 and are getting 90 back. We’ve lost over 1,000 and we’re getting 156 back.

Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire, Michael Lane. Picture: Sarah Standing (050319-2241)

‘This doesn’t work. If you’re going to base your calculations on an inaccurate formula then you’re never going to change that.

‘The funding formula (disservices) us by £47m a year. We’re then also getting penalised because they’re basing the allocation of resources on that same funding formula.’

He added: ‘There are significant challenges with delivering the policing service that the public wants without a significant increase in police officers.’

Chief constables had to ‘cut their cloth’ accordingly after budget reductions, he said.

‘My plea is that they change the funding formula – that would give two wins, we'd have significantly more funding and we’d get a fair share of the allocation of the new officer uplift.

‘For the public in Hampshire it would be massive and for officers it would be massive.’

That huge trimming of the police budget has seen Hampshire lose its dedicated force support unit, and saw the potential axe of the marine unit – stopped only by an outcry from the maritime community.

Numbers are so tight that police bosses, since 2010, have looked on a microscopic level to make efficiencies and cuts wherever possible.

The biggest football policing operation ever in the county, in Portsmouth for the Pompey v Southampton Carabao Cup match, saw officers drawn in from Kent, Essex, Thames Valley and elsewhere under mutual aid.

This week 27 officers from Hampshire police are in the capital as eco-protest movement Extinction Rebellion try to bring London to a standstill.

Speaking to The News last month, Olivia Pinkney said with new officers promised she could ‘take the fight to criminals’ and added: ‘The opportunity is huge. We will be able to deliver a better service, we will be able to reduce crime. We will be able to address that unprecedented pressure that’s grown year on year for the last decade.’

Welcoming the allocation of 156 officers today she said: ‘The increase in officers is very welcome. We are already getting on with recruiting the additional officers that have been allocated in year one.

‘Our first wave of recruitment for detectives was successful, and we will start recruiting uniformed officers in mid-November.

‘Hampshire is one of the lowest funded forces and, consequently, can afford fewer officers than others.

‘As long as the current funding model is used to divide up national police funding, this fairness gap will continue to exist.

‘That has an impact on our communities, and on our officers and staff. So whilst 156 officers in year one is certainly a good start we would also like to see police funding made fairer in future years.’

Hampshire has prioritised recruiting detectives before it will take on uniformed officers.

Crime commissioner Mr Lane said: ‘This is a very welcome commitment by government and will keep our communities safer.

‘And I thank the prime minister and the Home Office team for acting swiftly to begin restoring the necessary funding for policing.

‘But it must be seen as but the latest step, with more to come.’

He said with the 210 officers brought in through a council tax hike it means there are 366 ‘additional officers’.

The News previously revealed this 210 increase came at the cost of a huge reduction in PCSOs, with many moving to become PCs.

Announcing the first wave of officers, home secretary Priti Patel said: ‘The public are clear they want to see more police officers on their streets, whether they live in the city or the countryside.

‘This is the people’s priority and it is exactly what the government is delivering.

‘Every single police force in England and Wales will be able to recruit additional officers this year to help keep all of our communities safer.’

The government cash for 2020-21 will provide training and kit, along with associated costs.