Police commissioner: 'real transformation' needed to cope with financial pressures (From Watford Observer)
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Hertfordshire police and crime commissioner David Lloyd: 'real transformation' needed to cope with financial pressures
Police station sell-offs, job losses and tax increases are in store as Hertfordshire Constabulary struggles to balance its budget, the county’s police commissioner has warned.
David Lloyd has outlined his plans to save around £30 million by 2018, which is needed to plug the hole in police finances due to be left by Government funding cuts and rising costs.
In an open letter released this morning, Mr Lloyd told residents he felt the force needed a "real transformation" to cope with the financial pressures it is facing.
The Conservative, who was elected last November, said he was willing to sacrifice buildings and backroom staff to protect neighbourhood policing.
He said: "We need to do something more fundamental than trimming existing teams and budgets - a real transformation is required. The chief constable and I are in full agreement that the first name on the policing team sheet must be neighbourhood policing.
"A local presence is not only a source of reassurance; it is the most effective way to police our community."
The main policy he proposed is saving £2 million from a £9 million cost of maintaining the constabulary’s stations and offices by selling off "surplus" buildings and having officers share facilities with other organisations.
In the letter he asked whether residents "would rather keep the buildings or the police presence?"
The commissioner then cited "research" which showed that only a "handful of visitors each day" visited police stations and that less than half actually need the police.
He added: "I think it would be wasteful to continue to plough public money into bricks and mortar whilst depleting the teams that fill those buildings."
The letter said Hertfordshire Constabulary faced losing around £15 million from its £200 million annual budget in Government reductions. It attributed the other £15 million needed in savings to the increasing costs of staff, buildings and equipment.
Mr Lloyd said he would also be looking to increase the police’s share of Hertfordshire’s Council Tax bill to balance the constabulary’s books.
Ten pence of every tax pound paid in the county currently goes to the force and makes up around one third of its revenue.
The commissioner said: "When it comes to increasing the council tax precept, I would not do so lightly. In fact, policing taxes have been frozen for the last three years. I think I will have to ask more of residents this time, with a 3.4% increase in the precept this year and potentially next as well.
"For a household that pays B and D council tax, this will mean finding an extra 10p a week for policing next year. Although this is a small amount, I do not underestimate the impact of this move and I hope you share my sense that it is a necessary step."
Other cost cutting initiatives Mr Lloyd said he was looking at were upgrading the force’s equipment, increasing collaboration with neighbouring constabularies and privatising services.
The commissioner added: "My proposal, then is to protect the local policing approach by: increasing the precept; making savings in other areas of policing by collaborating with neighbouring forces and looking closely at outsourcing; collaborating with other local services including sharing venues and facilities; and maintaining a real local presence in each of Hertfordshire’s 10 districts with chief inspectors continuing as big leadership figures and a physical hub for policing in each patch."
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