Beds Police ‘won’t be sustainable in the near future’ without help, says crime commissioner

Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway
Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway

Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway has welcomed the pay award for police officers announced by Government last week but spelled out the implications for her cash-strapped force.

The Government announced a pay award for police, as expected, of 1% but added a one-off payment of a further 1% from September 1, 2017 which it intends to be funded from police cash reserves. The Commissioner pointed to the very limited amount of reserves held by her force and the funding crisis which future rises could present.

She said: “Police officers everywhere put their safety on the line every day they work on the frontline and deserve recognition of this and a pay increase. In Bedfordshire, this is particularly true since we have just over 1,000 officers to police a population of 644,000 with some of the greatest challenges anywhere in British policing including the third highest terror risk in the country, the cross-over of Serious Organised Crime with London, as it’s so near to us, and an increasing gangs issues involving young people across the county as a whole.

“While a pay cap on public sector salaries could not possibly last forever, we need to be in no doubt of what this means for Bedfordshire Police as people can see for themselves that we are having to find double the amount that had been budgeted for.”

She added: “The Policing Minister referred to reserves held by police forces generally amounting to some £1.5 billion and suggested that policing could easily afford the rise, as a result. It’s right that some forces hold comfortable levels of reserves but this isn’t even remotely the case in Bedfordshire which has just £3m in general reserves, the amount usually used as a benchmark in the public sector for the very minimum which should be kept for an emergency – at just 3% of income.

“In the past, the pay of police staff has tended to rise in line with police pay awards so, if I have to rely on the general reserves and spend nothing at all on developing the force or its buildings, if we assume pay awards for both sets of employees as we move forward, at 2% a year we would have to find £900,000 extra and £1.8 million at 3%.

“You don’t have to be a mathematician to spot that this would wipe out Bedfordshire’s reserves in three years at 2% and less than 18 months at 3% and we already knew we were heading for a financial black hole in 2019-20 without any pay increase above the 1%,” warned Commissioner Holloway.

“The prospect of standing still isn’t a realistic possibility either. We’re already committed to a change in the structure and buildings at Bedfordshire Police so that the Force Control Room 999 and 101 call handlers sit with the Crime Bureau which records crime so there’s a much smoother and better service for the public which will also meet the concerns expressed over several years by the police watchdog, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, HMIC.

“If funding help isn’t provided to the force soon it simply won’t be sustainable in the near future.”

The Government introduced a pay cap for public sector workers, including police, in 2010 with a two year pay freeze then a 1% limit.

The Policing Minister, Nick Hurd, has called on police forces in England and Wales to submit details of their crime and non-crime challenges, their resources and the gap between these, through the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners and National Police Chiefs Council, as the basis of a review of police funding.