FOLLOWING the announcement of the Government’s 2015/16 grant settlement, Staffordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Ellis says protecting Neighbourhood Policing in Tamworth remains ‘tough but entirely doable’.
Under the settlement outlined yesterday, the grant for policing, community safety and reducing crime will be £107.034m compared to last year’s settlement of £112.798m, a reduction of around five per cent. There will be some additional funding from Government to support the establishment of the Commissioner’s flagship programme to develop a Victim’s Gateway for Staffordshire.
Mr Ellis said: “As expected, this is another immensely challenging settlement which makes the focus of the last 18 months on spending money more effectively and removing waste wherever possible even more crucial.
“We’ll continue to do that, working closely with Staffordshire Police and other agencies to squeeze every ounce of value from each pound spent. I also intend to stick to my principle of not asking council tax payers across Staffordshire for any extra money until there are no more efficiencies to squeeze out. The budgetary plans I’ve set out assume a 0% increase in the policing and community safety part of council tax to 2019. There’s a chance that could change but it remains my firm ambition.
“Yes, it’s getting harder but finances are in reasonable shape as long as my office and Staffordshire Police are successful in following through on the 11 strategic projects we’ve put at the heart of reforming police finances and ways of working. I’m confident those plans are in good shape.
“To be honest I think the public sector generally had a pretty easy time financially in the decade or so up to 2010. There was an excess of money around which led to inefficiency and less productive services. Not the fault of public services, just a financial culture which emerged because of a time of plenty.
“This year’s settlements further highlight the need for public services in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent to work more effectively together. Improving joint working and dealing with things that cause harm earlier to prevent them from happening in the first place or from becoming worse is at the heart of the five-year strategy I set out in 2013.
“The willingness of other agencies to share responsibility and combine budgets and efforts around themes such as reducing re-offending, dealing with domestic abuse and tackling the challenges of street level drugs would pay dividends. Doing that well could mean the money available will go much further meaning more effective, yet less expensive, delivery of services.
“Is that happening? Yes, to some degree but not enough. Things are heading that way with some districts and boroughs while Staffordshire County Council are bringing budgets around domestic abuse together with the funding I spend. In recognition of that bold and effective move I’ve increased the funding my office provides by over 700%. But critically it will mean more effective joined up approach to commissioning services. Better services and better value.
“Then there’s the opportunity to save millions in support costs. We’ve been working with Staffordshire Police and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue to improve the way vehicles are managed and maintained. It will save very large amounts of money and make the use of all vehicles more effective by spending more time available for use.
“We’re also working on other collaborations which will drive more money towards frontline services. And why in somewhere like Staffordshire do we have dozens of the same type of administrative services duplicating the same thing time and time again? Work is underway to understand how we might change some of those to be more effective and release extra money to front end delivery.
“It’s both difficult and exciting in public services. The opportunities are very clearly there to use the pressure on finances to provide more joined up public services for less money and that remains the number one job that needs to be done.”
The Commissioner regularly highlights as an example the work to provide mobile technology to police meaning they’ll be able to do ‘on the move’ almost all administrative work they currently have to return to a police station to do. Indications are that mobile technology to be rolled out from April will free up around 5,000 hours a week of extra front line policing in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.