The Commissioner presented his proposed Police Budget and Precept for 2019/20 indicating a net budget requirement of £196.994million. He referred to the increase in the Home Office Police Grant element to £107.139million (compared to £104.936m for 2018/19). Whilst an increased figure, the Commissioner submitted that this was a cash flat allocation as it included provision to help meet unforeseen additional employer contributions to the Police Pension Scheme which had been the subject of discussion with the Home Office during the Autumn 2018 period.
In addition to the Grant the Home Office had announced that the threshold for a referendum on Police Precept increase was being raised to £24 per household, per annum for 2019/20. For 2018/19 that threshold had been raised to £12 per household per annum and at that time the £12 was also to apply to 2019/20.
The Commissioner’s proposed budget was based on a Precept of £24 per household for 2019/20 which would generate an additional £9.299million. Proposals for the use of that funding were - to build a sustainable base budget, maintain and safeguard policing and community services in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent and make additional investment in the Police and Crime Plan. Details were submitted of proposals by the Commissioner and Chief Constable to invest £3.588million of the additional funds in new systems, the implementation of the new Policing model and the recruitment of a number of additional officers. The balance of the additional Precept income would be used to address base budget pressures.
The Panel questioned the Commissioner on warranted officers and PCSO numbers and the areas of policing on which the Chief Constable would focus investment. In supporting the 2018/19 Precept increase the Panel had been informed that a total of 69 officers would be recruited over the 2018/20 period. The Commissioner reported on the progress of the recruitment programme acknowledging the Panels views on the importance of evidencing an increase in numbers as had been expected by the public when supporting last years increased Precept. When looking at the total policing establishment and factors affecting police numbers (such as retirements and transfers) the Panel called for clearer information from the Commissioner on Police numbers and it was agreed that a workshop event would be held to examine in detail the policing establishment and it’s deployment.
The Precept/budget report was accompanied by a number of financial strategies (see below). With regard to the Reserves Strategy, the Staffordshire Force currently has the lowest level of General Reserves of all Forces in England and Wales at approximately 1% of net revenue budget. The guide for General Reserves was 3% in order to provide the safe level at which any Force would be able to respond to major incidents.. The Commissioner acknowledged the need to raise the level of General Reserves but reiterated his view that they should be kept to a minimum to ensure that public money was being spent on frontline services. Consequently he proposed to increase the General Reserve to 3% at the beginning of each financial year and to maintain a minimum 2% throughout the year.
Other aspects of the proposed Budget/Precept discussed by the Panel included the proposed funding levels for non-statutory services (eg Drug and Alcohol Abuse Support Services) and the proposed cessation of funding for the SPACE scheme and the Commissioner’s confidence that sufficient alternative funding would be available for that scheme from other agencies.
Commenting on the national picture, the Commissioner referred to the gradual increase in percentage of overall police funding being directed to nationwide services such as anti-terrorism and reported that the timing of the Comprehensive Spending Review had not yet been announced. Forces were calling for 3 year budget settlements to allow for more forward planning.
RESOLVED – That the veto not be exercised and that the proposed Policing Revenue Budget and Precept 2019/20 be supported; the formal report to the Commissioner highlight the Panel’s request for clearer information on the plans for investment in the Force, including the number of police officers; The Panel to hold a workshop to receive that information from the Commissioner to better able members to carry out a monitoring role during 2019/20.
The Panel’s formal report to the Commissioner setting out its full decision is posted at: