A message from PCC David Jamieson:
This budget will mean that West Midlands Police does not shrink any further. Since 2010, the spending power of the force has been reduced by £175m which has led to 2,000 fewer officers on the streets as a result of government cuts.
The police funding announcement from central government for 2019/20 cut the spending power of local forces and required Police and Crime Commissioners to seek money from the local council tax payers in their areas. The force is also facing additional pensions costs of over £15 million from government.
In official Government documents, the Home Office and Treasury expects that all Police Crime and Commissioners will increase the precept by the maximum amount. Therefore it is essentially a Government expectation that police precepts are increased by the maximum amount.
I asked the people for their thoughts on the government proposed £24-a-year increase (for a band D property) on the policing precept, however for most people in the West Midlands this will be between £16-£19. This would mean the force will not shrink further. It would still leave local people paying at least £60 less than people in neighbouring force areas such as Staffordshire, West Mercia and Warwickshire. 76% of the over 500 consultation responses were supportive of the budget plans.
To ensure the force doesn’t shrink any further, the government has strongly indicated it expects PCCs to increase council tax by the maximum amount. That means a £24-a-year increase for a Band D taxpayer.
With the force still facing real terms cuts it is the only option left to protect officer numbers. I would prefer government not to shift the cost onto local council tax payers, but they have left no other option.
Government funding does not match the huge increases in pension costs that they have placed on West Midlands Police and inflationary pressures we are facing. This means that to plug the gap in police funding the government have essentially mandated Commissioners to increase the council tax by the maximum amount, or cut officer numbers even further. I was not prepared to see police officer numbers reduce further, that means that this increase in council tax is a necessity to maintain police on our streets and keep our communities safe.