Vera Baird

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Commissioner’s Response – HMIC Inspections – Responding to Austerity – Northumbria police

1st September 2014

I welcome this report, published July 2014  and am pleased that HMIC recognise the force’s comprehensive and well-managed plans to deliver the savings required, while protecting frontline and visible policing roles.

We identified the need to save £91.9m over the four years of the Comprehensive Spending Review period (March 2011 – March 2015). This has been a massive challenge for us and equates to 26% of the force’s overall budget. In doing this we have scrutinised all non-pay budgets to make reductions wherever possible without impacting on the service to the public. I am delighted to say that we have maintained performance standards and are still the top performing force in England and Wales for levels of satisfaction by victims of crime, and have one of the lowest levels of crime per head of population and high detection rates.

Working with the Chief Constable we took a decision to use our reserves to meet efficiencies so that reductions to police staff numbers can be phased in gradually in order to reduce the impact on the service to the public and to minimise the need to use compulsory redundancy.We are also relocating neighbourhood teams into locations at the heart of communities, often in shared facilities, to make them more accessible to local people without reducing opening times. This means we can get rid of outdated expensive to maintain buildings.

Northumbria has suffered disproportionately compared to other forces. The portion of the council tax that pays for policing is the lowest in the country. Therefore we rely more on central funding than many other forces and, when the Government repeatedly reduces this, the impact felt here is much greater.However, there is no doubt that if further funding cuts are made to policing there is little room for manoeuvre left and we will have no choice but to make  some extremely difficult decisions to make.

National Report –  Policing in Austerity – Meeting the Challenge