Police and Crime Commissioner’s budget plans help to protect strong frontline policing.

February 9, 2023

Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen has outlined her plans to protect frontline policing across County Durham and Darlington amid the country’s growing economic crisis.

The Commissioner has confirmed there will be an increase on the policing portion of the money people pay towards council tax by 6.2 per cent which equates to an extra 29p per week – or £15 a year - for a Band D property. The Police and Crime Panel has supported this change following her presenting her plans at a meeting held on 1st February.

The PCC says the move is critical if she is to maintain police officer and Police and Community Support Officer (PCSOs) numbers at their current levels of 1,363 and 146 over the next 12 months, while also meeting the strain of rising fuel prices, energy costs, inflation, vehicle maintenance and essential new equipment on the budget.

More than half (52 per cent) of the 1,200 people who responded to the Commissioner’s recent budget survey supported increasing the precept either by £15 or £20.

In presenting her plans, Commissioner Allen hit out at the unfair funding system which places neighbouring counties including Nork Yorkshire at a distinct advantage in securing revenue – while holding back others including Durham.

To put into context, the £15 increase in the precept will raise £2.6m in County Durham while in North Yorkshire it will secure £4.5m. Previous cuts to Government funding saw the Force lose 27 per cent of its overall police strength – a total of 408 officers – compared to North Yorkshire, which lost just four per cent (61 officers). Even with the recent Operation Uplift recruitment, County Durham is still 153 officers short on the ground compared to 2010 while other forces are celebrating record numbers of frontline officers.  

The formula sees North Yorkshire, home to the current Prime Minister, enjoying an increase in police officer numbers.  In 2010 the North Yorkshire force had 1486 officers.  By 31 March 2023 it will have 1644, an increase of 158.  Over the same period Durham Constabulary on other hand, has lost 144 officers.  

“Until the Government reverses its outdated and inadequate funding formula and outlines a plan that will deliver consistency, counties like Durham will continue to suffer and stagnate in the shadows of their neighbours,” said Commissioner Allen.

“I am not asking for special treatment here – just for a levelling up of support that recognises our unique problems and puts us in the same playing field as the rest of the country.

“If the Government is going to insist on burdening taxpayers with higher bills to meet the gaps from central funding, then it needs urgently to level up or else trigger wider inequalities than those that already exist.”

Currently, County Durham receives only the 14th highest funding settlement per head of population in England and Wales – despite having the ninth highest recorded crime rates.

Other problems stem from the fact a high proportion of households in the force area fall into Council Tax Band A – the lowest category – which means that a one per cent rise in the precept does not have the same impact as in a neighbouring force such as Nork Yorkshire or in Surrey (which has the highest percentage of total funding through the precept). The force area also has a lower population growth but deep-rooted socio-economic problems to address.

Last year, the Commissioner’s policing precept of £240 (for a Band D property) was significantly less than in North Yorkshire (£281), Cumbria (£282) and Cleveland – and the national average (£251).

Despite the limitations of central grant funding and council tax revenue, Commissioner Allen still successfully brought in almost £2.6m of extra funding through schemes such as Safer Streets and Ministry of Justice victims’ services grants to cement the force’s nationally-leading performance in many areas of investigation.

“I’ve long supported demands to fund forces based on their actual needs and not as this archaic system imagines them to be. These delays have hurt taxpayers once again at the worst possible time,” added Commissioner Allen.

“Without extra funding to meet the current cost pressures facing every force plus the necessity of new technology, building and maintenance investment, we will struggle to balance the budget in future years.

“Our officers do a fantastic job to keep our communities safe and I am pleased more than half of all residents back my plans to protect them even further.

“Increasing the precept at what is an incredibly difficult time for householders and families is not a decision any Commissioner wants to make and is not one I take lightly. However, my hands are literally tied – there is no other option if I am to maintain police officer and PCSOs at their current levels.

“The people of Durham and Darlington quite rightly want to see police officers on their streets. This budget will continue to deliver the exceptional level of service expected by our communities and will go some way to protecting the innovative and pioneering work that has already put Durham Constabulary on the map.”

The policing grant allocated to the force has increased by 1.8 per cent to £107.6m for 2023/24. If the panel approves the precept increase, the total revenue funding will increase to £151.3m – an increase of 3.4 per cent.

The budget will enable the force to continue its technology upgrade, maintain new shift patterns to provide greater coverage in roads, neighbourhoods, response and safeguarding teams and increase its cybercrime capability.

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