‘Shift burden of cuts to push up police numbers’
POLICE NUMBERS could rise in South Yorkshire despite budget problems under a radical idea from the Police and Crime Commissioner which, he says, could buck the trend of dwindling officer numbers across the country.
Dr Alan Billings has asked Chief Constable Stephen Watson to find ways of employing more officers even though there is little prospect of anything more than a ‘flat cash’ settlement next year, meaning a real world reduction after inflation.
That would provide more staff to bolster the recently re-introduced neighbourhood policing units, which have already shown promising results in tackling crime and behaviour problems before they can escalate into major issues.
Dr Billings believes more staff will be needed if neighbourhood teams are to achieve their full potential and has set the chief constable the challenge of finding the funding with no new resources.
That would “buck the trend” of most forces, which accept staffing levels will have to decline as continued reduced budgets and new expenses continue to bite.
He accepts Mr Watson may have to find ways of raising the cash through savings elsewhere in his budget, something which is expected to happen in the months leading up to the budget being set early next year.
Chancellor Philip Hammond offered no extra money for policing in his recent budget and PCCs will learn the full impact of the Government’s spending plans on law and order when the policing grant is announced next month.
Dr Billing’s request comes after years of cuts to police spending and reductions in the number of officers within South Yorkshire Police and forces elsewhere in the country.
He said: “I cannot give him extra resources, he will have to find resources from somewhere else.
“It may be South Yorkshire Police make savings in other areas to pay for extra police officers.
“We are trying to buck the trend. Where everyone is looking at reducing numbers, we are looking at how we can provide extra police officer resources.
“You may have to do some changes within the workforce; I don’t think we want to go down the route of job losses but there may have to be job juggling to get it right.
“This will happen between now and the end of the financial year.”
No figure has been set for the extra number of officers, Dr Billings would hope to see, but it is expected to be relatively modest.
Staffing costs make up around 80 per cent of police spending, so finding savings elsewhere is an extremely difficult task.
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