The Police & Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, David Keane, is calling on local communities to have their say on the future of the force, as the region gears up for a potentially “woeful” flat cash settlement from the Government.
The Police & Crime Commissioner has a statutory duty to consult with the people of Cheshire on future funding through the police precept – this is a critical component of homeowners’ annual council tax bills.
Reports are suggesting that the Government is intending to release the usual cap on precept charges nationally. This would mean that, whilst putting the burden of police funding increasingly on local taxpayers, it could allow Cheshire Police to go a long way to maintaining police numbers. In anticipation people and businesses in communities across Cheshire are being invited to give an indication whether they would be prepared to support a five per cent increase in the precept (18p a week), rather than the 3 per cent maximum currently allowed by Government.
For context, over the past seven years Cheshire Constabulary has made huge savings of more than £60 million - a cash cut of 23 per cent since 2010 and a real term cut of 37 per cent.
A flat cash settlement from the Government could mean that, over the next three years, Cheshire Police will need to find further savings of more than £13 million - around £4million in year one, £5million in year two and a further £4million in year three - and, despite every effort to find ways to boost its efficiency, it has exhausted nearly all of its options for further savings without cutting frontline offices or PCSOs.
Unfortunately, this potential reduced funding from Government means the people of Cheshire will need to consider two potential options for the future of the force: A reduction of some 80 frontline officers and PCSOs – the neighbourhood policing that Cheshire people tell us is so important for them – or increasing the funding the force receives through the precept, by around 18p per week for the average home.