MP says police must save more

David Ruffley, Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds
David Ruffley, Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds

SUFFOLK Police Authority has been urged to think again about seeking a Council Tax increase.

Speaking in the Police Grant debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley said Britain’s police funding was at an all time high and that Suffolk only proposed ‘modest savings’.

Suffolk Police Authority will decide on February 20 whether to accept a one-off Government grant of £1.25 million next year or ask for its Council Tax share (precept) to rise 3.75 per cent, generating £1.55 million next year and in future years, when Council Tax will be frozen.

At its January meeting, Chief Constable Simon Ash said any decision made this year would have major implications for the future of policing in Suffolk, including the number of officers.

But Mr Ruffley said that if they raised the police precept this year, the force would lose nine uniformed officers. But he added: “If they do not raise Council Tax the total number of uniformed officers will fall to 1,189 – a loss of 52 officers.

“I would urge the Constabulary to look again at what further savings it can squeeze out of its budget so that such a reduction is not necessary.

“Given that the total Police budget for Suffolk is £129 million they have outlined modest cost savings in 2012/2013 of £7.3 million; in 2013/14 of £3.7 million; in 2014/15 of £2.3 million; and in 2015/16 of £0.9 million on a total turnover of £129 million. Such savings are modest by comparison with what private sector organisations can achieve.”

Mr Ruffley added that the Inspectorate of Constabulary said Suffolk only has 11 per cent of officers available for ‘visible policing’ at any one time.

“If more officers are moved from middle and back office roles to the front line there is no reason for this spending settlement to damage police visibility,” he argued.

Police Authority chairman Joanna Spicer said: “There is a real concern about the future resourcing of policing in Suffolk, not just during 2012/13 but in the years that follow. We know that our decision on council tax will have major implications for policing locally.”