July 03, 2006

"£800m bill for police mergers"

Police force mergers will cost about £500m, reports the Telegraph and will plunge the service into a major cash crisis, according to financial predictions produced for chief constables.
The hidden costs of the Government's controversial plans to create "superforces" have emerged as far higher than previously thought, as it is now feared Government plans will lead to a major drop in money the police receive from the council tax.
£500m is the cash equivalent of the annual salary of 25,000 probationary constables.

Tim Brain is the chief of Gloucester and leader on finance issues for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo).
Mr Brain's team have calculated that forces are likely to lose a further £286 million - the yearly cash equivalent of another 14,000 probationary officer salaries - in a process dubbed "precept equalisation".
The precept is the contribution made from local council tax to policing in any area, over and above the central government grant. Mr Brain writes:
"The combined effects of restructuring and budget cuts could mean losing the cash equivalent of 25,000 probationary constables. Current Home Office plans for post-restructuring 'precept equalisation' could add the cash equivalent of almost another 14,000.

"Something will have to give - neighbourhood policing, restructuring, major projects?"

His numbers suggest that even in the case of the one agreed amalgamation - between Lancashire and Cumbria - there would be a funding shortfall over five years.

The Telegraph comments, "As the Government has made political capital of boosting police numbers in England and Wales to more than 140,000, it would not welcome the loss of tens of thousands of officer posts."

So did Mr Clarke propose an ill thought out policy, or did he know the numbers perfectly well and knowingly try to bounce his policy through?

On the face of it we have an uncosted policy, with losers but no winners. Was Charles Clarke "fit for purpose"?

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