Parliamentary committee criticises unfair police funding

Posted on Wednesday 2nd March 2011 at 10:00 pm by SH (Editor)

Avon and Somerset Police Authority has been listed as the country’s second biggest financial loser missing out on £20m a year, according to a recently published Parliamentary Report.

The report by the House of Commons’ Home Affairs Select Committee lists how much each of the country’s 43 police forces receives from the Government against their assessed needs, it shows Avon and Somerset as missing out on £20m a year it is calculated as needing.

The complex government funding formula is designed to address the needs of individual areas but, according to the report, throws up “unexpected winners and losers” leading to perceptions of unfairness.

It lists Avon and Somerset as the second-most hard-done-by force in the country and the Police Authority responsible for setting the police budget says it is the taxpayers of Avon and Somerset who end up paying the price.

The Police Authority says that if the funding was distributed fairly, according to what the force is assessed to need every household could receive a council tax reduction of £36 a year.

Avon and Somerset Police Authority Chair Dr Peter Heffer said: “I have said before that we receive a raw deal and I am pleased to see it finally acknowledged, but what I don’t want to see is this issue remaining in the Home Office’s “too difficult” box. I have asked them repeatedly to act and it’s about time they did.

“Our shortfall against our needs assessment has risen from £12m to £20m in 2011/12 and this can not go on. The people of Avon and Somerset should not have to suffer while other forces are building up reserves. If we received the funding that we are assessed to need we would be able to employ over 450 police officers or nearly 700 PCSOs or give every household a council tax reduction of £36 a year.”

He added: “I urge residents to write to their MPs and to highlight this issue because council tax payers in this area are contributing more to police coffers than elsewhere, only to see the money being diverted to other parts of the country. It’s simply unfair and our residents should not have to foot this bill.”

The report also raised concerns over the election of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) in 2012, a view shared by Dr Heffer.

MPs in the Select Committee said Ministers should acknowledge the risks involved in bringing in police and crime commissioners when forces nationwide will be under pressure policing the Olympics.

Dr Heffer added: “I’m pleased to see that Politicians are finally starting to see the risks of Police and Crime Commissioners being introduced in 2012. However the bigger issue is the politicisation of policing, as it seems we are sleepwalking into a fundamental change which goes against the founding principle of policing. Policing should be separate from the state and politics, given that a PCC is going to be elected, I would be amazed if they were not a political person.”

“My concern is not when an election takes place but should it at all? Is this what the country wants? I have not heard one person say they want their school or hospital run by one person so why should the police be run this way. The Government should save the £100m cost of electing PCCs and put the money into front line policing”

Source: Avon and Somerset Police Authority

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