Merseyside Police will recruit 160 extra police officers this year after the Police Commissioner’s proposals to balance the budget were approved by the body which scrutinises her work.
Merseyside’s Police and Crime Panel approved Jane Kennedy’s plans to protect Merseyside Police’s budget, cover the inflationary pressures facing the force and ensure the force can go ahead with a planned recruitment drive over the next 12 months.
After a decade of budget cuts which reduced the number of officers in the Force by nearly a quarter, the planned recruitment drive will finally see Merseyside Police return its contingent of officers to more than 4,000-strong following a major drive last year during which 500 new officers joined the force.
The Commissioner presented her proposal for the budget, including an increase to the ‘police precept’ – the part of council tax ring-fenced for local policing – at a virtual meeting of the Police and Crime Panel also attended by the Chief Constable Andy Cooke QPM.
The increase to the Police Precept equates to £10 a year on a Band A property, the lowest council tax band but the one paid by the majority of households on Merseyside. It was proposed to the Panel following a public consultation undertaken by the Police Commissioner during which more 77% of respondents (1,601) gave their support for plans to rebuild the numbers of frontline police officers, with more than 62% (1,294) saying they were willing to contribute more in police precept.
The Commissioner and Chief Constable explained to Panel members that, with careful planning, they had been able to accelerate the Force’s recruitment drive over the last year to get 500 extra officers trained and on to the streets of Merseyside as quickly as possible. The Chief Constable also detailed how the additional funding raised through local council tax had also helped the Force to tackle local priorities and keep communities safe, including by tackling gun crime, improving road safety and through the introduction of new schools liaison officers.
With their budget plans for 2021/22 approved by the public and the Panel, the Commissioner and Chief Constable can now press ahead with the next stage of the recruitment process.
Jane said, “Merseyside Police was incredibly hard hit by government cuts over the last decade. We lost more than a quarter of our officers – 1,110 in total. Now we have turned a corner on austerity, the Chief Constable and I are doing everything we can to rebuild the Force, returning the organisation toward its former strength and ensuring it is in the best possible position to keep our communities safe.
“Over the last year and with a lot of careful financial planning we have been able to accelerate the force’s recruitment drive to bring in 500 new officers, who are now trained and on the streets of Merseyside preventing crime, protecting the public and maintaining public safety.
“Now, with the support of local people and the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel, we can grow officer numbers by a further 160, which means that by the end of March next year Merseyside Police will once again have more than 4,000 officers.
“While we are still some way off the numbers we had in 2010, this is still good news for Merseyside and I want to pass on my heartfelt thanks to the public and to Panel members for once again showing their support for their local force. I know it was a tough ask in a year which has brought much hardship and distress, but by giving me their backing they have played their part in making our streets safer.”
The Commissioner’s proposal to increase the police precept came after the government released its financial settlement in December, which included an expectation from ministers that local people would contribute more towards policing. The Commissioner put her budget plans to the Panel after a three-week consultation with local people.
The Panel endorsed the Commissioner’s budget plans with a recommendation she strenuously raise their concerns with Home Office and Treasury ministers and challenge government decisions to shift the burden of paying for the police from central taxation onto the shoulders of local council tax payers.
Now the Police and Crime Panel have approved the Commissioner’s plans, she will ask the region’s local authorities to implement the increase, which will come into effect from 1 April 2021.
Main image: CC Andy Cooke & PCC Jane Kennedy