HAMPSHIRE’S police and crime commissioner is at the centre of a huge row after it was revealed his plans to increase council tax by £12 to pay for more police will see some 160 posts slashed in 2018/19 – while his own office will increase its budget by £440,000 to pay for ‘essential staff’.
Plans by Michael Lane’s office – which was created six years ago by the Coalition government to replace local police authorities in a bid to cut down bureaucracy – will also be given an extra £700,000 to pay for administration costs he will be responsible for as part of a shake up of the way Hampshire Police commission certain services.
But the Hampshire Police Federation – which represents rank and file officers – were up in arms as the details were released just hours after Hampshire Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney revealed the latest round of job cuts to devastate the county’s ‘thin Blue Line’.
Under the cutbacks, which are aimed at cutting spending by £24.75m over the next four years, and saving £8.1m in the next financial year alone, Hampshire Police will see:
* The traffic unit lose 20 officers to save £1m;
* Its surveillance unit, which targets the most serious criminals, axe 12 officer and one civilian post to save £500,000;
* The dog unit operate with 15 fewer handlers to save £368,000;
* The firearms team save £264,000 by axing four posts;
* Twelve posts lost in the custody departments, saving £549,000;
* The evidence management team lose 10 civilians to save £339,000 while another 15 will go in the crime reporting bureau to save £421,000 – plus an extra £164,000 from cuts to the forensics unit.
Further savings totalling £2m by 2021/22 will come from a reduction in the number of buildings used by the force.
Hampshire Police Federation chairman John Apter said angrily: “We know we’re losing 160 posts – 110 of them are officer posts.
“In the very same week the decision is going to be rubber-stamped the police and crime commissioner is putting out adverts to increase his staff. It’s insensitive and ill-judged.
“Until I read the detail in the papers I was not aware the police and crime commissioner was asking for £500,000 to increase his office staff.
“If I was aware I would have not supported the increase in the council tax.”
The cash for ‘essential staff’ includes money for executive officer positions and cash for an assistant police and crime commissioner – former Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond quit after less than two months in the job last year after claiming she was unable to work with Mr Lane.
Money was previously paid out of reserves.
Mr Apter added: “It demonstrates everything that is wrong with the process. Any increase in staff costs or commissioning should have been made public before now.
“The public have given the police and crime commissioner their support to increase the council tax precept, but it’s not been done with full transparency.
“The public should have known exactly what any increase was going to be spent on.
“I know the public would demand every penny of any increase in what they pay should go on policing, not office staff for the police and crime commissioner.
“The lack of transparency is disturbing, the public have been misled. At a time when we’re fighting for our officers to be equipped with more Tasers to keep them safe, when our colleagues are going out single-crewed to violent jobs because there are not enough police, I know many officers will look at this with contempt.”
The police and crime commissioner office posted a job advert for a £24,000-27,000-per-year grants administrative officer at the weekend.
Mr Lane said this week: “The cost of the office that supports the police and crime commissioner is still small in comparison to the norms of businesses, amounting to less than one per cent of the budget.
“It includes the cost of managing the police estate, it funds the audit and accountability functions to ensure that commissioning grants and contracts deliver both effectively and as value for money, and it funds the public engagement programme.
He said the figures showing an increase were reported in a bid to be ‘fully visible’ on the cost of running the office and were ‘presentational’.
Police admit axing a total of 160 posts – both police and civilian – will ‘reduce capacity and resilience’.
The report said the cuts were said by the Chief Constable to be those that will have the ‘lowest operational impact on risk to the public’ and ‘relatively low complexity’.
Some posts being axed are already vacancies that have been left unfilled over the current financial year. Reports the marine unit was to be ditched were denied.
Mrs Pinkney backed the £12 council tax increase. Mr Lane said details of where cash would go was not given in an online survey completed by 3,897 people – but was with a focus group made up of 114 people.