Cumbria Police faces funding cuts of up to £26m

Cumbria Police chiefs fear they could have to make further savings of £26m, after already cutting spending by £20m.

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Cumbria Police Chief breathes sigh of relief over budget... but funding review still to come

The Chief Constable of Cumbria Police has said he's relieved the force isn't facing cuts as big as expected.

Senior Officers were anticipating savings of more than £11m ahead of the chancellor's statement.

But although the government announced the overall police budget will stay the same, Cumbria could still lose out in the months ahead as the formula for police funding is set for review:

John Stevenson MP on police cuts: 'We have to accept we have a large national deficit we have to clear'

Cumbria Police is bracing itself for cuts of more than 11 million pounds Credit: PA

Cumbria Police is bracing itself for cuts of more than 11 million pounds, when the Chancellor outlines his spending plans on Wednesday.

The figure could be higher or lower, depending on what the government has agreed with the Home Office.

The force has already saved 20 million pounds over the last five years.

I don't argue with the principle that the police have to take their fair share of cuts within the public sector but there must come a point that public safety assumes a paramount importance and significant further reductions in the number of officers on our streets might threaten public safety.

– Richard Rhodes Police & Crime Commissioner

We have to accept we have a large national deficit we have to clear, we have to live within our means so there will be cuts across many different departments and I suspect police will be one of them. However we saw with the police funding formula that the government has changed its mind, it's going to be reviewed and I very much welcome that because that would have had very devastating reductions to police in Cumbria.

– John Stevenson MP Carlisle, Conservative

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Cumbria Police braced for spending cuts

Police have warned frontline services will be affected. Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Cumbria Police is bracing itself for cuts of 25 per cent when the Chancellor George Osborne outlines his spending plans on Wednesday.

But the figure could be higher or lower depending on what the government agrees with the Home Office.

The force has already saved £20 million in the last five years.

An awful lot of the back office provision has already been taken away and there will come a point where a reduction in back office means officers on the frontline won't be able to operate effectively."

– Richard Rhodes, Police and Crime Commissioner

WATCH: Farron calls for police cuts to be scrapped

Westmorland and Lonsdale MP and Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron wants the Government to change the way it calculates police budgets, after it was found Cumbria Police could lose up to £31million.

He launched his campaign today after the policing minister had to delay cuts to police forces when an error was found in the calculations.

Tim Farron says a delay isn't good enough. He wants the cuts to be scrapped and he's asking people to sign a petition to that effect.

Cuts to Cumbria Police budget postponed

Credit: ITV Border

Proposed cuts to Cumbria Police have been delayed after the Government admitted it made an "embarrassing" mistake in calculating the savings.

The Constabulary had been facing cuts of £26million in 2016/17 under Home Office proposals but it's been revealed an error with the funding formula actually meant the force would need to save more the £31million.

Today the Policing Minister Mike Penning MP apologised for the error and said that Cumbria Police's 2016/17 budget would now be based on the existing formula.

"I and the government regret this mistake and I apologise to the House.

"I also apologise to the 43 authorities I wrote to during the extended consultation period as part of the funding formula review."

– Mike Penning MP, Policing Minister

Cumbria's Police and Crime Commissioner Richard Rhodes and Chief Constable Jerry Graham have welcomed the announcement but say they still fear the impact of the Government's Comprehensive Spending Review on the force's budget.

“I welcome the announcement from Policing Minister, Mike Penning today in the House of Commons to delay the implementation of the changes currently being consulted on under the police funding formula.

“The existing funding formula will be used for the 2016/17 budget year.

“I welcome that the funding formula will now be consulted upon properly and robustly and will ask to be part of any discussions about the future of the formula.

“However, the financial situation in Cumbria remains challenging and we wait with some trepidation the announcement about future budget cuts under the Comprehensive Spending Review to be announced on 25 November.”

– Richard Rhodes, Cumbria Police and Crime Commissioner

“I am pleased that the Home Office is delaying the changes in the funding formula at this time.

“The policing budget is still unclear whilst we await the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review on the 26th November.

“The work we have done recently outlines the massive operational impact that significant level of cuts would have on policing services in Cumbria. Previous proposals would have left policing unrecognisable in the county.

“We continue to support the Police and Crime Commissioner to feed back the implications that further reductions in our budget would have on policing the county effectively.”

– Chief Constable Jerry Graham, Cumbria Police

Data error could mean extra £5.8m of police funding cuts

The police could face more cuts. Credit: ITV Border

An error in the formula used to calculate cuts to police forces "undermines the credibility" of the cuts, according to Cumbria's Police and Crime Commissioner.

Richard Rhodes says the mistake, which was spotted by Devon and Cornwall’s Police and Crime Commissioner, could mean extra cuts of £5.8 million for Cumbria Constabulary.

Those extra cuts would bring the total Cumbria Police is set to lose, under the Police Funding Formula, up to £15.3 million.

That would mean a total budget reduction of £31.8 million, rather than the £26 million, which Chief Constable Jerry Graham had previously warned was calling the force's viability into question.

Based on the information that we have received today our understanding at this time is that it is indicated under the Police Funding Formula consultation that we may lose an additional £5.8m bringing our total loss under the Funding Formula to £15.3m.

If these figures are correct it would bring our total budget reduction to £31.8m and we are waiting for urgent confirmation of this from the Home Office.

The provision of accurate percentages to allow PCCs and Chief Constables to assess the potential impact of proposals on individual forces is a critical part of the process.

We would therefore urge the Home Office to appoint an independent panel to review the funding formula and consultation process”.

– Richard Rhodes, Police and Crime Commissioner

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Conservative MP John Stevenson backs local campaign to halt Police cuts

John Stevenson MP Credit: ITV Border

John Stevenson MP has backed a local campaign which seeks to halt his own government's police funding cuts.

Yesterday, Carlisle's Conservative MP John Stevenson presented a petition to No 10 Downing Street, along with the News and Star and representatives of the Police, against the possible funding cuts to the Cumbrian Police.

Speaking with ITV Border, he today said that although 'cuts have to be made', he has taken issue with the size of the cuts:

The cuts are so large that it will make policing in Cumbria unsustainable, and I think that is unacceptable to the people of Cumbria.

– John Stevenson MP

Mr Stevenson was re-elected as MP for Carlisle in 2015 as part of a Conservative-majority government, which has since stepped up its austerity measures.

Earlier this month it was announced that Cumbria Police would have to suffer an extra £26m funding cut over the next five years, following on from the £20m it had already saved since 2010.

Cumbria Police authorities submit their grievances to the Home Office

Inside a police patrol van Credit: ITV Border

Cumbria Police and Crime Commissioner and the Chief Constable have today submitted to the Home Office their latest responses to the consultation on Police funding cuts.

The Government is consulting on the way that a key policing grant is allocated to police forces.

In Cumbria this could potentially lead to Cumbria Police having to make savings of £26m by 2020.

Police and Crime Commissioner Richard Rhodes said:

My view is that some aspects of the consultation are flawed in their methodology.

For example, Cumbria has the same number of bars as other areas but because there are twice as many hectares in the county it attracts only half the funding under the proposals. There aren’t too many bars on the tops of Skiddaw and Helvellyn!

We are being penalised for our rurality. Policing a rural area is difficult as we have to get around the Lake District with technology and vehicles often being more expensive in terms of cost and the number of people required.

Given that about 85% of all expenditure for Cumbria Constabulary is wages and salaries, this is an area that will have to come under scrutiny.

We have put a robust case forward to the Home Office with the support of our local MPs and many others across the County. I would ask that our points are listened to and considered with the relevance that they deserve.

– Police and Crime Commissioner Richard Rhodes
Chief Constable Jerry Graham Credit: ITV Border

Chief Constable Jerry Graham said:

I am deeply concerned at the impact that these proposed cuts would have on policing in Cumbria, and I will be awaiting the outcome of this consultation process with great interest.

We have received a great deal of public support, which has been appreciated by our staff and officers who are continuing to provide a professional service in a challenging time.

Cumbria is a unique place to police, and we have worked hard to protect frontline officers and neighbourhood policing as far as possible in the face of previous cuts, as we know this approach helps to keep the county safe.

I have worked closely with Mr Rhodes to prepare our response to the consultation, and I share his hopes that our views are listened to and taken into consideration when making final decisions.

– Chief Constable Jerry Graham

However, Mike Penning, Minister for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Victims,has previously said police funding needs to be on 'long-term, sustainable footing':

Police reform is working and crime has fallen by more than a quarter since June 2010, according to the Independent Crime Survey for England and Wales. Police recorded crime has fallen by 6% in Cumbria in that time.

However, if we want policing in this country to be the best it can be, then we must reform further, and that includes putting police funding on a long-term, sustainable footing.

The current model for allocating police funding, is complex, opaque and out of date. That is why we have consulted on principles for reform of funding arrangements for the police in England and Wales, ensuring they are fair, robust and transparent. We are refining our proposed model in light of responses to the public consultation and are engaging further with Police and Crime Commissioners and forces as part of this process.

Allocations for individual police force areas have not been set and decisions on funding will not be made until the Spending Review reports in November.

– Mike Penning, Minister for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Victims

Police dog handlers fear they'll lose their department

Broon the Police dog Credit: ITV Border

Police dog handlers in Cumbria say they fear their department may be cut as Cumbria Constabulary tries to save another £26million.

The force's Chief Constable responded with anger at the prospect of cutting even more than the £20million already saved and said policing in the county would be unrecognisable.

For the dog handlers, they fear that would mean no more search dogs. A police officer can't be made redundant, but that doesn't apply to the 4-legged ones.

It is a massive deal this. When I joined the dogs section 24 years ago there was 24 of us. Over the years we've been cut and we've been cut down to the levels we are now where we've got about 14 handlers. It means that any cut at all would mean that there's no point in having a dogs section so really you would lose a dog section.

– Sgt Mark Yielder, Cumbria Police
The force's newest recruit Credit: ITV Border

Each dog costs £2000 a year in food and vet bills alone, and there's 23 of them, then there's the cost of 16 staff.

These dogs aren't pets. These are working dogs. They're not owned by us, they're owned by Cumbria Constabulary and they provide a service to front line officers and most importantly they provide a service to the people of Cumbria: they keep people safe; they detect and prevent crime; they find missing people; they find drugs; we have the bomb dogs that are searching for devices when you've got the Prime Minister and VIPs coming.

– Sgt Mark Yielder

For the dog handlers, it means losing a job they've worked hard to get and their best friends.

I've been a police officer for 18 years and I've been a dog handler for 12 so it's taken me a long time to get to where I am, to get the experience that I've got and to get the dogs that I've got. So if we were cut or reduced or amalgamated with another force it would mean that I would obviously lose that role and those skills would disappear.

– Chris Morgan, Dog handler

It would mean me losing my dogs. I've had my German Shepherd Bronn since he was 8 weeks old, I've had Alfie since he was 4 months old, and they're not just part of your working life, they're part of your home life: they go home with you so it would have a massive effect on everybody really.

– PC Glenn Myerscough, Dog handler
Bomber the Police dog Credit: ITV Border

Their boss, the Chief Constable, described the cuts as changing policing as we know it in Cumbria. That could mean a police force without its dogs.

We search for people nearly every day. I think we've had about 267 incidents this year alone when we've been out searching for people. Just the other day our dog handlers were searching for a missing person. They found that person, he'd had an overdose and they managed to get him to hospital before he died. You would lose that. How much do you put on a life of a person?

– Sgt Mark Yielder

The Home Office responded to ITV Border's request for an interview with the following statement:

Police reform is working and crime has fallen by more than a quarter since June 2010, according to the Independent Crime Survey for England and Wales. Police recorded crime has fallen by 6% in Cumbria in that time.

However, if we want policing in this country to be the best it can be, then we must reform further, and that includes putting police funding on a long-term, sustainable footing.

The current model for allocating police funding, is complex, opaque and out of date. That is why we have consulted on principles for reform of funding arrangements for the police in England and Wales, ensuring they are fair, robust and transparent. We are refining our proposed model in light of responses to the public consultation and are engaging further with Police and Crime Commissioners and forces as part of this process.

Allocations for individual police force areas have not been set and decisions on funding will not be made until the Spending Review reports in November

– Mike Penning, Minister for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Victims
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