Dorset Police have warned that they might only be able to provide ‘the most basic services to the most vulnerable sectors of our community’ as they say they face fresh cuts as a result of austerity.
Already the police say they have had to get rid of 500 officers and staff since the start of austerity and now fear that rising pension and other costs will remove a further £4million a year from its operational budget.
Chief Constable James Vaughan said: ‘Whilst we remain committed to providing the best possible policing service to communities across Dorset, I am extremely concerned that the stark reality of our current financial outlook means that we may no longer be able to provide anything but the most basic services to the most vulnerable sectors of our community.
‘The Chancellor’s budget this year provided much needed and welcome additional funding for health, education and defence but identified no additional funds for police forces; only a very small one-off increase to support counter terrorism policing. This, combined with the potential changes to employer pension contributions, and normal inflationary pressures will remove more than £4 million a year from the force budget in coming years.’
Mr Vaughan continued: ‘The budget for Dorset Police has already reduced by £25 million since the introduction of the government’s austerity programme and, as a direct result, we have had to reduce our workforce by 500 officers and staff. This rate of decline simply cannot continue without having a significant impact on our services.
‘In addition I have a growing concern that demand for policing is now rising at an alarming rate. Crime and incidents, across the county, have increased by nearly 10 per cent over the last year and without an investment in resources that allow us to intervene early and prevent crime and ASB I can only see that rise continuing.’
He added: ‘The dynamics of crime over recent years have shifted markedly and we are now experiencing higher levels of arguably the most harmful crime such as sexual assaults, domestic assaults, child sexual exploitation, modern slavery and cybercrime. Not only are these crimes a high threat, they also require more specialised and time-consuming investigations in order to protect and safeguard victims, particularly those who are vulnerable.
‘All of these pressures take their toll on my officers and staff who are working hard to deliver services in an increasingly difficult landscape. Their frustrations at being asked to deliver so much more with so much less are clear and the strain is beginning to show.’
The chief constable’s warnings came after Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill called on the government to provide more central funding for policing. ‘The government grant for local policing has not increased by a single penny in the last eight years, and as a result the budget for Dorset Police has reduced, in real-terms, by £25 million. At the same time inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, has increased by almost one-fifth,’ said Mr Underhill.
‘The small increase in force budget in recent years, 4% over six years, has been met by local taxpayers. Whilst I remain incredibly grateful for their continued support, it is time for the Government to live up to their claim that “public safety is the number one priority of the government”, a statement made by the Home Secretary to PCCs and Chief Constables less than a fortnight ago.’