West Yorkshire Police budget deficit narrowed down to £30m as savings reviewed
An "unprecedented" and "extremely challenging" deficit in West Yorkshire Police's budget for next year has been narrowed down, but still stands at £30m.
In an internal email to staff last month, Deputy Chief Constable Russ Foster informed colleagues that the force was facing a deficit of up to £40m and was looking at cuts of up to 15 per cent across departments.
A follow up email sent last week, which has also been seen by The Yorkshire Post, Mr Foster wrote: "I am please to announce that deficit has been revised down to £30 million for the next financial year 2021/22. However, without additional funding the Force will regrettably have to make some significant savings."
The force's financial uncertainty comes as the area was revealed to have the country's highest rate of crime - by number of offences by population - in data published by the Office of National Statistics on Friday.
The email continued: "We have already started some work to mitigate against the impending deficit, including a recruitment freeze of some roles and the implementation of a vacancy control panel which will consider the necessity to recruit new police staff roles which become vacant and, if so, determining whether they should be filled by a police officer or member of police staff.
"We are reviewing and reprioritising our capital spend progamme and revenue expenditure."
The previous email sent to force staff referred to scheduled meetings to discuss savings to be made called "star chambers", which were criticised by some employees as corporate jargon.
The follow up email added that these would be renamed "savings suggestions forums".
Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson has said the force has faced a decade of financial struggles due to austerity and Government cuts.
Commenting on the initial news of the deficit, he said: “As the Police and Crime Commissioner, it is my role to set the budget for policing in West Yorkshire and there are many factors and pressures that contribute to its preparation.
“Given that I am due to set the budget in February 2021, it is still too early to say with any certainty what the full financial picture will actually be with all the uncertainties of a COVID impacted environment and extra costs incurred.
“The Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) due in the autumn for instance, will have a significant influence on our situation and will ultimately determine how we move forward if the Government properly resource the police to the extent they should.
“What is clear, however, is that we have been in an extremely challenging position since 2010 with government cuts leading to the loss of over 2000 police jobs, which is on public record with Government grant accounting for approximately 70% of our budget.
“I have done everything in my power locally to help mitigate against this long term period of austerity including maximising the local policing precept in starting to gradually rebuild the numbers of police officers and protect Police and Community Support Officers (PCSOs) in our core budget, investing in the frontline and working to maximise its effectiveness.
“However, we know there is continued uncertainty right across policing, not to mention the public sector as a whole and I will be working with West Yorkshire Police to look at all options to minimise any impact on police staff as far as possible.
“My priority continues to be rebuilding Police numbers and to protect police staff and the many key roles they undertake and the invaluable service they provide in helping to keep our communities safe.
“I will continue to fight locally and nationally for much needed further sustained resources from government, and campaign for the long overdue and promised fairer police funding formula to provide West Yorkshire communities with the right level of support required over the next Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) period which will be crucial.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “The Government is providing the biggest increase in funding for the police in over a decade and as part of that West Yorkshire Police are receiving up to £485m in funding in 2020/21, an increase of up to £36.5m on 2019/20.
“Police forces in Yorkshire and the Humber will be recruiting more than 500 additional officers in this year alone, as part of the Government’s plan to get 20,000 additional police officers on our streets.”
West Yorkshire Police added that, following on from Mr Burns-Williamson's remarks, there was no further comment at this time.