A police tsar has held talks with a possible sponsor for his force in a bid to survive "austere times with a shrinking budget and workforce".
Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Dorset, Martyn Underhill is considering private sponsorship, on an arrangement involving all five PCCs in the south west region.
The former detective chief inspector for Sussex Police
that he could see a "huge potential benefit to forming appropriate sponsorship relationships with reputable organisations". wrote on his blog
The 43 police forces across England and Wales face funding cuts of up to 20% by 2015.
Mr Underhill, who was second-in-charge in the Sarah Payne child murder case, said:
The police family in Dorset is living in austere times with a shrinking budget and workforce. Despite those challenges, we are maintaining an efficient and effective service for Dorset. However, our funding needs to be readdressed and I continue to lobby the Government for extra funds. We are the lowest- funded force and have seen the worst cuts.
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At a crime reduction event last Friday Mr Underhill met a possible sponsor, and will ask for the issue to be added to the agenda at the next regional PCCs and chief constables meeting.
He went on:
I can see huge potential benefit to forming appropriate sponsorship relationships with reputable organisations. They will give Dorset Police greater funding to maintain a high-quality service. They will also ensure that we have the funds to help us to combat crime and provide reassurance to communities.
But he added:
I need to be clear that we are looking for longer- term business support, rather than one-off sponsorships. This will help us to plan and sustain projects that might otherwise not have been possible due to the ongoing financial constraints. I also need to stress that neither myself as police and crime commissioner for Dorset, nor the force, will ever allow operational functions to become dependent on, or to be influenced by, sponsorship agreements.
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PCCs, which replaced existing police authorities in 41 force areas across England and Wales, were handed the power to set force budgets and even hire and fire chief constables.
Clive Chamberlain, chairman of Dorset Police Federation, said Mr Underhill "rightly recognises" the force is the lowest funded in the country and fully supported his efforts to lobby government for more funding. He said:
The issue of sponsorship is not new to the police service and any such arrangements are subject to rigorous parameters. Sponsorship is subject to a 1% limit of the force's total annual income and does not make any of the statutory functions of the force dependent on this funding nor does it allow for any companies to interfere with the duties of the police.