I hope it’s not too late to wish you all a very happy new year and let’s hope 2017 turns out to be a successful year for everyone.
Of course, when we look back over 2016, there were some pretty earth-shattering moments politically and economically, many of which were not forecast at all and I’m sure there will be some more surprises this year.
The next 12 months certainly will be challenging financially for the constabulary because, although the overall budget is only slightly less than last year, we still need to finds savings of more than £3.5million to meet the extra costs of the national pensions contribution and the apprenticeship levy.
As a result of these pressures, there is one specific area where I really do need help and support from all of you and that concerns the Home Office funding for Suffolk Police.
As police and crime commissioner, I’m responsible for the policing budget and setting the precept for the force.
It has long been my belief that Suffolk does not receive its fair share of Home Office funding.
The current funding formula is remarkably complicated and I am very pleased that the policing minister, Brandon Lewis, recognises that the status quo is untenable, which is why he is consulting on a root and branch reform of the formula ready for implementation in April 2018.
To support this change, you may have read in last week’s Bury Free Press about the launch of my fairer funding for Suffolk campaign and how I really need everyone’s support.
It seems to me perverse that our neighbours in Norfolk receive around £5 per head of the population per year more than we do in Suffolk.
If funding for Suffolk was set at the same level, there would be around an extra £3million in our budget – that’s enough to fund at least an extra 60 officers.
We are very lucky to live in one of the safest counties in England and Wales and Suffolk Constabulary is one of the best performing forces in the country, but there is still a great deal to do to maintain this reputation.
The need to tackle changing patterns of crime, particularly those using technology, as well as problems such as addiction, domestic abuse and business crime, requires better equipment, resources and training, which inevitably costs money.
The total cost of policing per head of the population in Suffolk is around 43p per day, whereas some of the large metropolitan areas cost in excess of 55p per day – that is simply unreasonable, which is why I welcome the decision to change the funding formula.
I don’t in any way wish to sound negative and it’s always easy to think problems can be solved by spending more money, so I’d like to reassure you I am totally committed to continue looking at everything the constabulary spends to extract maximum value.
That process must continue and I’m a firm believer in ensuring we work much more closely together right across the public sector.
This will mean pooling resources, budgets and back office functions so that we can collectively focus whatever we can on front-line delivery.
The existing Home Office formula fails to recognise the challenges of policing a huge rural area of over 1,500 square miles, containing over 480 parishes with a long and vulnerable coastline of more than 60 miles in length.
There are many crucial national assets located in Suffolk which all need policing – the major ports of Felixstowe, Lowestoft and Ipswich, linked to the rest of the country by the A14 and A12, the five major military bases and the Sizewell nuclear complex. There is currently no recognition of this in our government grant.
So, please spare a few moments to support our campaign to help deliver a more equitable and just funding formula for our county.
If you have any additional comments to make, please add this to your response.
I will use your responses as evidence to lobby for a fairer deal for Suffolk.
-- Tim Passmore is Police and Crime Commissioner for Suffolk