Policing budget endorsed at panel hearing
Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner Giles Orpen-Smellie’s proposal for the policing budget for the coming year has been given the support of the county’s Police and Crime Panel.
Giles shared his plans for the 2022/23 precept at meeting of the panel on February 1, telling members that Norfolk Constabulary needed additional funds in order to maintain current levels of service and respond to areas of growing demand.
The panel gave their endorsement for the proposal, which will see an increase of 3.59% to the policing element of council tax, equivalent to £9.99 per year (19p per week) on a Band D property or £7.77 a year (15p per week) on Band B property.
The PCC is responsible for setting the policing budget and, with it, how much local taxpayers contribute to funding their police service. Of the total police budget, 55% comes from central government funding and 45% from the council tax precept.
The panel heard that whilst demands on policing are increasing and cases are becoming more complex, the policing budget is in real terms now £6.3million less than it was in 2010.
This required the police to operate with financial efficiency to get the best value for every pound and that it is of note that during its last inspection, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) rated the force as ‘outstanding’ for efficiency.
A public consultation was held in January to encourage people across Norfolk to share their views on the proposal, with the majority of respondents supporting it.
Speaking to the panel Giles said: “The public wants to see increased police visibility, that comes through loud and clear everywhere I go.
“The public also wants more to be done about rape, serious sexual assaults, domestic abuse and violence against women and girls. They want more to be done about drugs. They want more to be done about speeding motorists.
“And that was very clearly reflected in the comments made during the consultation. A majority supported my recommendation for a precept increase but many with the caveat that in return they get more visible policing.”
Giles also outlined the need to respond to government initiatives and requirements including the Beating Crime Plan, Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy and the forthcoming Victims Code.
Giles said: “I’d like to suggest as strongly as I may that if we’re to continue to improve the policing service being provided, if we’re to begin to respond to the public’s expectations and the government’s requirements, we do need to continue to invest in our constabulary, we do need to continue the regain from the effects of austerity.”
Norfolk’s Chief Constable Paul Sanford also addressed the meeting and endorsed the proposal made by the PCC, saying: “I am determined that as Chief Constable I make the best use of every single pound that is given to us.”
Mr Sanford outlined savings the force has made in recent years, alongside the growing demands for further services.
The Chief Constable told the meeting there was good news in some of the latest crime statistics, with residential burglary, robbery and vehicle offences all showing reductions, with Norfolk having the second lowest burglary rate across England and Wales.
“But take another look at the Office of National Statistics data and hidden crime is on the rise, the crime that happens behind closed doors, the crime that impacts the most vulnerable in our communities,” he said.
“Domestic abuse now represents 24% of the jobs that my officers deploy to.
“Reports of sexual abuse, some of them non-recent so not necessarily the offending of today, are up by 4.6% and violence with injury up by 11%.
“With a growing population, other what we call non-crime demand is on the increase – more missing persons, more road related incidents, more suspicious deaths, more persons in mental health crisis where the police are in response. Because of the changing nature of crime, the length of our investigations is increasing.
“If I am to provide the level of service that we would expect victims of crime such as domestic abuse and such as rape to receive I must increase my resourcing in these key areas.
“I must focus on the perpetrators of these crimes and bring them to justice. And I must ensure we have the best possible support for victims.”
Mr Sanford also confirmed the proposed increase would allow him to recruit 21 new posts to investigate such crimes and support victims.
He also addressed concerns about visible patrols and told the panel that despite the hidden nature of so much crime, he recognised the need and expectation for that form of visibility.
“Since I have become Chief Constable, we have increased patrols significantly across our neighbourhoods, our use of the Street Safe tool, our use of our initiative called Park Walk and Talk has resulted in thousands of extra patrols in our communities.
“And it is my intention with the resource provided through the governments Uplift programme to go further with that in the years ahead.
“But I can never not respond adequately to reports of rape and domestic abuse. Tragic events in the last year have led to the strong message that police must improve our response to violence against women and girls and now is the time to do that. This precept increase would enable me to do so.”
The PCC’s public consultation ran from 4 to 14 January 2022.