A message from PCC David Jamieson:
Since 2010, West Midlands Police has lost over £145m and more than 2,000 police officers. I have been very clear that the government needs to begin to take the safety of our communities seriously by increasing the funding to the police.
I have been given the power to increase council tax by an average of £12, the table above shows this more clearly. I have very reluctantly decided to raise council tax by this amount as West Midlands Police is almost at breaking point. However, it was very reassuring that in my public consultation, more than 76% of respondents said that they were willing to pay more council tax to help slow the reduction in West Midlands Police’s budget.
West Midlands Police requires £22m just to standstill and with an additional £9.5m raised from council tax increases, this will still leave a gap of £12.5m, meaning further reductions in spending.
This budget will enable West Midlands Police stabilise at 6,500 police officers. We are increasing recruitment to 900 new officers, 200 specialist staff and 150 PCSOs. That recruitment will still not cover all the officers we are losing.
I am pleased that our recruitment of specialist staff is progressing. These people will free-up officers to be out on the streets. Police officers were doing duties that could have been done by staff. We are allowing officers to focus on what the public want them to do, arresting criminals. We have also seen a recruitment drive in 101 and 999 call handlers, these are highly trained staff right on the frontline in communicating with the public and solving many problems.
West Midlands Police is still excellent value for money compared to neighbouring forces, with residents of the West Midlands paying more than £50 less. Even with this rise the West Midlands will still be the second cheapest force area in the country for council tax, at £128.55 per annum (for a Band D council taxpayer) compared to Surrey currently with the highest at £236.57.
I was pleased that the cross-party Police and Crime Panel voted to pass this budget unanimously, this budget has support from government ministers who acknowledge that under the most challenging of circumstances, we are making the most of what we have.