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Dorset PCC warns of cuts to police services

Martyn Underhill

Published at 7:13am 14th November 2018.

Police funding in Dorset is now over the cliff – with the Government to blame, according to the county’s police and crime commissioner.

Cuts to services have now become inevitable unless more funding can be found.

Commissioner Martyn Underhill says he will need an increase of almost three times the £12 rise the Government will allow him next year just to stand still.

He says changes to pension arrangements alone, not funded by the Government, will add £10million to local costs over the next three years.

His comments come after Chief Constable James Vaughan warned on Tuesday that services will have to be stripped back to the basics to make ends meet.

Said Mr Underhill after a meeting of the police and crime panel in Dorchester: “It is reality time. We are not on the edge of the cliff now, we have gone off it.

"Policing in Dorset has now reached the tipping point; I now struggle to look people in the face and say the police can keep people safe, because I don’t think they can.

“This is an outrageous situation to be in and the Chief Constable and I are now discussing what parts of policing we are going to stop to make sure that we can catch the bad people and keep the good people safe.”

He said that to have cuts in service at time when demand was rising was unforgivable. Mr Underhill said demand for services was rising at 10 per cent a year, with knife crime up 40 per cent – and yet the Dorset force now has 500 fewer staff than it had in the 1980s.

“I find it incredible that the Government seem prepared not to listen…yet have funded awards for others in the public sector.” He said that it has been a political decision to cut police budgets while at the same time increasing the local costs of pension and pay rises.

The police and crime commissioner says that while the force is currently rated as “good” it would need at least £30 added to the police share of council tax from April to maintain the position.

Martyn Underhill

Mr Underhill says it will mean changes to the way the police work – to a ‘demand-led’ model which essentially cuts out all but the key services and reduces preventative and non-essential work.

“There is no doubt in my mind that, unless the Government, on 6th December, change the funding settlement for Dorset, and there is no indication that they are going to do so, that people dialling 999 or 101 will not get the service they are currently getting and that is deeply worrying to me.

"Clearly the Chief Constable will risk assess what we stop doing. We are already looking at areas like environmental issues and anti social behaviour …I am not suggesting that someone who has been sexually assaulted or burgled won’t get a police officer but the low level stuff, that the police normally deal with and the residents of Dorset are used to having them deal with, that may have to stop.”

The police and crime panel heard that other ways of working was also being considered with the fire service becoming the first to respond to non-injury accidents and reports about missing people, or those where there is concern for their welfare – although the service would still have to paid for.

“If we do that I will have to pay the fire service to reduce the demand on the police, so it’s not a completely rosy picture and I will continue to co-operate with other services, but you can only do so much and we are getting to the stage where we have nearly done it all.”

By Local Democracy Reporter, Trevor Bevins

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