Merseyside’s Police Commissioner has warned that proposed pension changes will “swing a wrecking ball” through the police budget and lead to the loss of a further 300 officers if pushed through by the Government.
Jane Kennedy spoke out as she released a briefing to all Merseyside MPs on the bleak outlook for Merseyside Police if the Government goes ahead with the imposition of a new unfunded pension liability. It follows the recent Treasury revaluation of the National Police Pension Scheme which has identified a deficit of £417m annually.
While the Treasury have agreed to provide a one-off payment of £252m nationally, it is proposed the outstanding £165m bill is imposed on local police forces. If enforced, Merseyside Police would be left footing an additional bill of £5m in 2019/2020 and £7m the following financial year – the equivalent of 300 police officer posts. This comes on top of the existing £15m of cuts being imposed by central government by 2022/23.
Jane said: “The Government are asking for a staggering amount of money, with no warning and the simple truth is we don’t have it. The imposition of a new unfunded pension liability will swing a wrecking ball through the already difficult budget plans for 2019 and the following years.
“The situation is now as bleak as it was in 2015 when Rt Hon George Osborne promised to ‘protect the police because the police protect us’. That promise has been broken.”
A National Audit Office report published in September confirmed that Merseyside Police is already the third worst hit Force across England and Wales, having had the grant it receives from central government reduced by 31% since 2010.
Even when topped up by additional money from local taxpayers through the local Council Tax precept, the Force has seen its overall budget reduced by 23%. Those cuts have seen the overall workforce cut by nearly a quarter - from a total of 7,350 people in 2010, down to just 5,697 this year.
Jane said: “If this pension bill is pushed through, Merseyside Police as an organisation will number just over 5,000 people by 2022 – that is a reduction of nearly a third in just 12 years. Imagine trying to play a football game against full strength opposition with just seven players – it would be laughable if the situation wasn’t so desperate.
“The Chief Constable has said the impact for Merseyside would be ‘crippling’. This is no exaggeration. The Force will be unrecognisable from the one which patrolled our streets just a decade ago. Proactive crime prevention will be a thing of the past and officers will be forced to respond reactively to the most serious crimes only.
“This Government has cut and cut again at our police service. There is no more left to give. Crime is up, but officer numbers are down to their lowest levels in years. They are playing fast and loose with public safety and there is no doubt that if this bill is imposed our police service will be at breaking point.”
Police and Crime Commissioners from across England and Wales are taking this issue as seriously as Jane Kennedy. The Chair of the APCC has written to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury on behalf of all PCCs, urging her to rethink the plans and PCCs around the country are briefing their own MPs to make representations on the disastrous consequences of imposing these changes.
See the full report on the financial sustainability of the police released by the National Audit Office here.