Merseyside’s Police Commissioner will argue for more funding for the police in Parliament today as she gives evidence on the devastating impact of budget cuts over the last eight years.
Jane Kennedy is appearing at an oral evidence session of the Public Accounts Committee examining the financial sustainability of police forces in England and Wales. The hearing follows on the from the recent publication of a National Audit Office report highlighting the lack of a long term funding plan for policing and significant gaps in the Home Office’s understanding of the complex demands on police services.
The Commissioner will appear at the evidence session alongside the Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary Michael Barton, the Vice President of the Police Superintendents’ Association Chief Superintendent Paul Griffiths, and the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall Alison Hernandez.
Also appearing at the Committee is Her Majesty’s Chief Inspectorate of Constabulary, Sir Tom Winsor. The Commissioner has previously spoken publicly of her disappointment at Sir Tom’s negative approach towards the police service, his attack on senior leaders of policing and for his introduction of Force Management Statements which has taken up more than a 1,000 police hours to produce on Merseyside alone.
The National Audit Office report published in September slammed the government for failing to have a clear picture of what individual forces need to meet local and national demands, or the funding required. The report confirmed that Merseyside Police is the third worst hit force across England and Wales, having had its total funding reduced by 23% since 2010 - more than double the cuts imposed on other forces, such as Surrey which has only seen an 11% decrease.
Jane said: “There is a huge amount of evidence that our police service is now in a perilous financial position. Experts both from within and outside the policing sector are telling ministers that action needs to be taken, and quickly. Yet, we see little sign of change.
“The government’s primary responsibility is to keep its citizens safe. With crime rising nationally and the threats facing our communities becoming ever more complex, I have no qualms in saying that they are now failing in this most fundamental of duties. In just eight years central government funding for our police service has fallen across England and Wales by nearly a third. Ministers should accept that austerity must end in reality, and not merely as a press statement.
“Even taking into account the extra funding raised from local people through Council Tax, Merseyside Police’s budget has been slashed by 23% since 2010. The urban forces that are most similar to Merseyside are all among the top 10 worst affected and are the most disproportionately and unfairly affected. Cities which have some of the most deprived areas in the country and some massive safeguarding challenges, are being further disadvantaged by the most severe cuts to this most essential of public services. This puts the safety of the pubic directly at risk.
“I will be using this opportunity to describe, on a national stage, not only the struggles Merseyside Police are facing, but the dire state of police funding across the country.
“The National Audit Office exists to help the government spend wisely. This report makes it clear that the government are failing. I will be using today’s oral evidence session to urge the new Home Secretary to listen to the recommendations of the NAO, to reverse years of cuts and implement an approach to police funding which is fair and provides police forces with the money they so desperately need to keep our communities safe.”
The Financial Sustainability of police forces in England and Wales hearing will be held at Portcullis House at 2.30pm, chaired by Meg Hillier MP.