PCVC Ron Hogg (L) and Chief Constable Mike Barton (R) at the Home Office
A DELEGATION from Durham Constabulary travelled to London yesterday to hold talks with the Policing Minister in an attempt to safeguard funding for the force.
Ron Hogg, Durham Constabulary’s Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner (PCVC), and Chief Constable Mike Barton, met Home Office Minister Brandon Lewis MP to raise issues which could detrimentally affect the amount of money the force receives.
Durham Constabulary is currently the top performing force in the country. It has been rated by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) as “outstanding” at both tackling crime and being efficient.
The Home Office are currently reviewing the funding formula after an aborted attempt in 2015. Given that the force has already been rated as outstandingly efficient, any significant reduction in funding is likely to have an impact on its effectiveness.
Mr Hogg and Chief Constable Barton highlighted four particular areas with the Minister. They were:
Council Tax Precepts
This varies across the country depending on the number of properties in higher council tax bands. An area which has lots of Band D-H properties proportionately will raise substantially more income than an area which has proportionately more Band A-D properties. 55% of properties in Durham and Darlington are in Band A, which means that the yield from that precept is very low – accounting for only about 25% of the total budget. Consequently, a cut in the grant would affect the force more greatly than it would in an affluent area.
Deprivation and alcohol
Because of Durham’s rural post-industrial character, its deprivation is of a different nature to the deprivation factors contained in the 2015 formula proposal, which centred around the urban adversity found in some of the major cities. The formula should be based on factors which reflect the type of deprivation found in areas like County Durham as well. Separately, the Government had proposed to use the number of bars and pubs in an area to account for alcohol-related demand. This fails to recognise alcohol which is consumed at home or anywhere other than in a pub or bar. The North East has the highest proportion of alcohol-related deaths in the country, and much of that alcohol is not purchased in bars but in off licences and shops.
The funding formula needs to attempt to reflect demand on the police which is not crime, such as safeguarding, preventative work, mental health and people missing from home. Durham is increasingly looking to invest more resources upstream to solve problems early and prevent escalation into larger and more complex issues which ultimately cost society and the taxpayer more to fix. Any formula must allow for the capacity to be innovative and creative as well as responding to calls for service from the public.
Cuts to other services
The formula needs to take into account the impact of cuts to other public services. At the moment, decisions appear to be taken in isolation in central Government, without regard, for instance, to the impact that cuts to local authority or health budgets may have on the police and other services. Other organisations may have less available to invest in those services which support long term, cost effective community safety objectives, such as drug and alcohol treatment. These are services which prevent problems from escalating, and save money in the long run. Such reductions would result in increased demand on the police force.
PCVC Ron Hogg said: “It is extremely important that the funding from Government is set according to a formula which enables Durham Constabulary to operate effectively. I am writing to all local MPs to make them aware of the issues which I raised with the Minister, and to enable them to make the case for fair funding locally and in Parliament.”
Chief Constable Mike Barton said: “We’re proud that we are able to provide a police service for the people of County Durham and Darlington which is second to none and it’s vital that we do everything we can to maintain that.
“As the country’s top performing force, which has also been credited with using its money wisely, we are in an enviable position.
“It is therefore key that we take our chance to ensure that those with the purse strings produce a funding formula which is fair and enables us to continue to provide the best possible service for those who live and work in our communities.”
A copy of the paper presented, Police Grant Distribution Review 2017, can be viewed here.
Posted on Tuesday 7th February 2017