NEWS COMMENT: If we want the police, we’ll have to pay for them

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EVERY year, when it comes to discussing the setting of the rates for the next 12 months’ council tax, the picture is rarely rosy.

Local authorities are squeezed by ongoing austerity measures – the fight to find the cash to maintain frontline services gets that little bit more desperate every time.

And our emergency services are clearly feeling the pinch too.

Michael Lane, Hampshire’s police and crime commissioner has voiced concerns about the county’s policing if they cannot meet the necessary budget to maintain the status quo.

He is warning that even if they were to raise their share of the tax by the maximum, 1.99 per cent – or £3.29 for a Band D property, they would still be facing a £10m shortfall to keep the force operating as it currently does.

We often hear how overstretched and overburdened our officers are, and these figures paint a stark reality.

This is not a problem unique to Hampshire. Since 2010, the number of police officers, has decreased year-on-year in the 43 forces across England and Wales from 143,734 to 123.142 between 2010 and 2017. That is a loss of a staggering one-in-seven officers.

While the Home Office report these figures came from admit that it while it is not directly comparable, this could be the lowest number of serving officers since 1985 – more than 30 years ago.

Most of us dislike having to pay more tax, even if we agree with the principles behind it. And it is doubly galling when you see how much Hampshire gets less from government than the median – a whopping £47.7m.

Mr Lane is right to call for a fairer national funding formula. But in the meantime, it is we who will have to carry the shortfall, or face a further reduction in our proud police force.