Marine unit saved despite anti-terror cash being slashed

Hampshire police's marine unit fleet
Hampshire police's marine unit fleet
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MARINE security and the coast’s crime-fighting ability will stay in place despite a government funding cut.

Hampshire police’s marine unit was facing the axe after the Home Office decided to stop paying £450,000-a-year from April 2017.

But now Simon Hayes, police and crime commissioner for Hampshire, has vowed to spend the cash from the force’s budget.

The move has been supported by the marine community.

Peter Cardy is secretary of Gosport Marine Scene.

He said: ‘I’m delighted. It would have been a great shame to have lost the unit because it gives a great sense of security. People feel that they’re safer with their boats and their boats are safer when they’re not on them with the police around.

‘It’s encouraging and pleasing that the unit will continue at its current strength.’

Officers work on counter-terrorism, tackle drug smugglers and human trafficking in home waters, and provide a platform for firearms officers to protect VIPs at major events based on the water.

Nine officers and a sergeant command a fleet consisting of a 39ft catamaran, Commander, a patrol launch, Preventer, and two Rigid Inflatable Boats, Pursuer and Protector.

They patrol a 260-mile coastline and operate up to 12 miles offshore.

Hampshire already spends £550,000-a-year on the unit but will now pay the rest.

It flies in the face of Chancellor George Osborne’s promise in the Autumn Statement that police budgets would not be cut. The government later said this was true when an increase in council tax precept was taken into account.

Speaking to The News, Mr Hayes said: ‘There will be no change whatsoever.’

He added that cash will come from the increased council tax but that the force already prepared to cut back ahead of last year’s funding announcement. Mr Hayes did not reveal where the cash will come from.

John Apter, Hampshire Police Federation chairman, was critical of the funding cut from government.

He said: ‘The Chancellor recently shouted from the rooftops that the police budget would be protected.

‘For many of us in policing we knew the devil would be in the detail and this announcement demonstrates we were right to be cautious.

‘The police marine unit provides a critical role in protecting some of our most vulnerable areas. For the government to slash its budget in this way shows promises to protect the police budget we’re false and misleading.

‘I support the decision by the PCC to protect the unit but we have to accept there will be an impact.

‘With an ever-reducing pot of money that will inevitably have an impact on other areas of policing.’