Anger as Hampshire police commissioner set to increase office budget despite force cutting 160 jobs

MORE than 160 police jobs are set to be axed in a near-£7m fresh round of cuts.

Tuesday, 23rd January 2018, 6:00 am
Chief constable Olivia Pinkney and Hampshire police and crime commissioner Michael Lane

Hampshire police are preparing to reduce the dog unit by 15 officers, cut traffic cops by 20 and its intelligence and surveillance units by more than 30 positions.

But the plans have been criticised after it emerged Hampshire’s police and crime commissioner, Michael Lane, is set to increase his office budget by £440,000 for ‘essential staff’.

Another £700,000 is set to be added to his budget to handle commissioning services.

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John Apter, Hampshire Police Federation chairman, said the public had been ‘misled’ when asked if they would pay more tax to support the police.

Mr Lane is increasing the police share of council tax by £12 a year for a band D home.

Mr Apter said: ‘Until I read the detail in the papers I was not aware that the police and crime commissioner was asking for £0.5m to increase his office staff.

‘If I was aware I would have not supported the increase in the council tax.’

The cash for ‘essential staff’ includes money for executive officer positions and cash for an assistant police and crime commissioner.

Money was previously paid out of reserves.

Mr Apter added: ‘It demonstrates everything that is wrong with the process. Any increase in staff costs or commissioning should have been made public before now.

‘The public have given the PCC their support to increase the precept but it’s not been done with full transparency, the public should have known exactly what any increase was going to be spent on.

‘I know the public would demand that every penny of any increase in what they pay should go on policing, not office staff for the PCC.

‘The lack of transparency is disturbing, the public have been misled.

‘At a time when we’re fighting for our officers to be equipped with more Taser to keep them safe, when our colleagues are going out single-crewed to violent jobs because there are not enough police, I know many officers will look at this with contempt.’

A spokeswoman for the Office of Police and Crime Commissioner said details of where cash would go was not given in an online survey completed by 3,897 people – but was with a focus group of 114 people across two events.

In a statement Mr Lane said: ‘The cost of the office that supports the PCC is still small in comparison to the norms of businesses, amounting to less than one per cent of the budget.

‘It includes the cost of managing the police estate, it funds the audit and accountability functions to ensure that commissioning grants and contracts deliver both effectively and as value for money, and it funds the public engagement programme.’

He said the figures showing an increase were reported in a bid to be ‘fully visible’ on the cost of running the office and were ‘presentational’.

Police hope the overall changes will save the force £6.9m but admit it will ‘reduce capacity and resilience’.

The bulk of the cuts will be made in 2018/19 but the force has worked with consultants to draw up a list of 200 ‘savings opportunities’.

Around £24.75m needs to be saved in the next four years.

The report said the cuts are ‘deemed by the chief constable to be those that have the lowest operational impact on risk to the public and relatively low complexity’ so can be made in 2018/19.

Chief constable Olivia Pinkney said she was ‘pleased’ Mr Lane had recommended a £12 council tax increase.