Last week the UK Government announced the provisional settlement for the police in 2019/20.
The UK Government’s policy of austerity has imposed significant cash and real terms cuts to police funding over the last 9 years. The overall funding provided in this proposed settlement does nothing to reverse years of central Government budget cuts and will require Police and Crime Commissioners in Wales to make difficult choices in setting the level of their council tax precept.
Police budgets have been cut by £2.7bn in real terms between 2010-18 and the Government has already broken promises made by the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary to protect funding, slashing central government funding by over £400m since 2015. Figures for this year show that police numbers across England and Wales are now at their lowest level in three decades. Since 2010 over 21,000 police officers have been lost, over 16,000 police staff and over 6,000 community support officers have been axed – despite promises to protect the frontline.
This becomes all the more problematic when you consider that over the last twelve months alone, incidences of violent crime, robbery, weapons possession and public order offences have risen across the UK, including here in Gwent. Gwent Police’s Chief Constable Julian Williams has rightly highlighted that the demand for policing – and its complexity – is increasing, and to deal with that you need adequate resources. With this unavoidable truth in mind, we need Ministers to review the Government’s long-term police funding strategy as a matter of urgency.
The Government have also belatedly agreed to cover £153m of pension costs they forced upon police forces in 2019/2020, but they have refused to give any commitment regarding the UK-wide £417m pension black hole in 2020/21, which risks thousands of officers across the country. Here in Gwent, the pensions shortfall will add £5million in extra costs to the force’s budget by 2020/2021, equating to the costs of maintaining 100 police officers. It’s vital that Ministers provide clarity on the future funding of police pensions as soon as possible.