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PCC's police budget proposals receive unanimous Panel support

Lorne Green met with members of the Police and Crime Panel today (6 February 2018) to present his proposals for the 2018/19 Norfolk policing budget.

Those proposals included a 5.5% increase in the policing element of council tax - which equates to an extra £12 per year or 23 pence per week for a Band D household.

Having run a public consultation at the end of last year, the PCC told Panel that the views of those who took part were clear - they would be prepared to pay something extra for their police if they could see something extra for their money.

Lorne said those views had been heard loud and clear and, in making his decision, he had asked the Chief Constable to take on board a number of enhancements to the new Norfolk policing model announced last October.

Those enhancements include:
  • Investment in 23 additional personnel to increase the number of police officers and specialist staff dedicated to local policing;
  • Reinforcement of police involvement in schools, with school engagement being a focus in the deployment of those additional local policing personnel;
  • Delivery of a robust communications programme to ensure all Norfolk residents - and particularly the vulnerable and elderly - know when and how to contact the police;
  • A commitment to holding local policing surgeries at set, regular times on dates and in locations widely advertised to maximise accessibility;
  • Review of the 101 non-emergency telephone system to ensure it is fit for purpose.
The PCC also told Panel that the budget he was proposing would enable further investment in technology, such as mobile working, drones and body worn video, which is helping Norfolk's police service to work more efficiently, freeing up officer time and allowing them to spend more time on the beat.

Lorne's 2018/19 police budget proposals received the unanimous support of the Norfolk Police and Crime Panel.

The consultation and budget reports from today's Police and Crime Panel meeting are available on the Norfolk County Council website or in the folders below.

For more information, you can also read Lorne's full words to Panel below.

PCC Lorne Green presents his 2018/19 police budget proposals to Panel

Chairman, Panel Members, being the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk is a source of great pride to me and to have the chance to serve the people of Norfolk is a huge honour.

This role allows me the opportunity to travel the length and breadth of our county speaking to people and listening to their views, comments and concerns on all things relating to policing and criminal justice.

I talk with members of the public at my regular surgeries, from market places to coffee shops, listen to the rural community at my Barnstorming events and speak to members of the police family at police stations and on the beat. I visit charities - people and organisations making a real difference to people’s lives - and hear from those who are being supported.

And it’s that input and feedback on what people want and need from their police that helps me shape the service delivered in our county – from the priorities in Norfolk’s Police and Crime Plan, to the budget within which those priorities are delivered.

Setting the policing budget and, with it, making the decision whether to raise the policing element of people’s Council Tax is, arguably, one of the most difficult parts of my role. It is not a decision I take lightly.

I am sensitive to the financial pressures on the taxpayers of Norfolk and, in considering my decision, I am very aware that the policing element of people’s Council Tax is exactly that – one part of the bill. Others, too, are also looking at whether to increase their part of the bill. I recognise these are tough times but, as ever, it is my duty to balance the burden on local taxpayers with the safety of our county.

It is with that in mind that I have been lobbying central Government hard in recent months for a better deal for Norfolk police. I have personally met with the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and the Policing and Fire Minister on a number of occasions and, together with my fellow PCCs, I made a firm case for policing to be given as fair a funding deal as possible. My efforts were not in vain – Norfolk has secured a better than expected police funding deal for 2018/19 (to the tune of an unexpected £1.2m). I have also been granted some latitude and leeway when it comes to local taxation. That the Government listened to the case I put forward is very welcome news.

Alongside my lobbying of the Government, and in preparation for my budget decision over the past few months, I have listened to the views of the community, the Chief Constable, key stakeholders and partners in the police, community safety and local criminal justice arenas. A key part of that activity has been a consultation exploring public views on the policing budget and what they would be willing to pay to help fund the service they receive.

I was heartened that well over two thousand people took part in that consultation and had their say online, emailed, wrote letters, called the office and gave their views face to face. Thank you to everyone who responded, including those I spoke to when I was out and about gathering views – be that on Norwich Market, on the streets of Great Yarmouth or in the shopping precincts of King’s Lynn.

I also want to thank the 900 plus people who took the time to add comments and feedback. It was an excellent response and hugely encouraging. It proves to me, once again, that the people of Norfolk are passionate about their police force. They have a voice, and I can assure them that their views count and that voice is heard. I would also like to thank colleagues in the media for helping us spread the word and for their role in ensuring the Norfolk community were able to have their say.

As you have already heard, this year I consulted on a number of options.

The two primary options were a policing precept freeze or an increase of up to 2%, which was the maximum increase permitted under the central government cap in place at the time the consultation was launched.

However, given that I was lobbying Government hard at the time, I took the decision to consult on a number of supplementary options too in order to gather public opinion and help inform my budget decision should – as proved to be the case - the cap be increased.

Presented alongside all of the consultation options were a detailed overview of the financial scene and an explanation of what each option might mean in terms of the future policing of our county.

The views of the public were clear.

On the substantive question, our fellow citizens, by a margin of 59pc to 41pc, indicated they were prepared to pay up to 2pc more for their police force.

Of those almost 1,200 people who answered the supplementary question, 80pc indicated they would be prepared to pay more than 4.5pc – with some 43pc saying they would be willing to pay up to 12pc.

On the basis of these results, it is clear that people are prepared to pay more to help fund their police force. However, having read the comments that accompanied their vote, I am also very clear that, if they are to pay more, respondents to the consultation expect to see more for their money and they want the funds to be used to increase frontline and visible policing.

As you will recall, in the latter months of last year, the Chief Constable announced his proposals for a new policing model for Norfolk. Based on professional judgement and operational policing experience, he and his policing change team said the new model was the best way to keep Norfolk safe – enabling the Force to respond to increasing service demands as financial pressure continues to mount up.

The Chief Constable also assured me personally that his proposals would enable community policing to continue and deliver the priorities within the county’s Police and Crime Plan, based on what communities say matters most to them.

The budget I propose today will support our Chief Constable in delivering that new policing model from 1 April 2018.

The budget I propose today takes into account the feedback I have received from Norfolk’s communities, organisations and partner agencies.

The budget I propose today allows me to invest in policing in Norfolk both now and in the future.

I have heard the voices of our communities. They told me in great number they would be prepared to pay something extra for their police if they could see something extra for their money. I get that.

I propose to raise the policing element of council tax by 5.5% - equivalent to £12 per year or 23 pence per week for a Band D household. In fact, 47% of households in Norfolk fall within Bands B and C. For them the increase would be 18 pence per week and 20 pence per week respectively.

In making my decision, I have asked the Chief Constable - and he has agreed - to take on board a number of enhancements to Norfolk’s new policing model.

First of all, my consultations have shown, once again, how important local community policing is to Norfolk’s residents. With that in mind, I have asked the Chief Constable – and he has agreed – to invest in 23 additional personnel to increase the number of police officers and specialist staff dedicated to local policing under the new Norfolk model.

Next, I have registered concerns about the decrease of some police interaction with young people in Norfolk’s schools, and so I have asked the Chief Constable – and he has agreed – to reinforce police involvement in schools. Alongside the dedicated Schools Programme police officers under the new policing model, the Chief Constable will ensure school engagement is a focus in the deployment of the additional local policing personnel to be recruited.

Third, I have also asked the Chief Constable to ensure the development and delivery of a robust communications programme to increase public awareness of all the ways they can access and engage with their police.  Mindful of the special requirements of the vulnerable and frail elderly, I have also asked the Chief Constable to develop a communications strategy specifically aimed at those groups.

While many people will welcome digital advancements which allow them to connect with their police online, by email, text or social media, not everyone will want or be able to use those methods. Everybody should know how, who and when to contact the police.

One way people will be able to do that is through local policing surgeries. I have asked the Chief Constable – and he has agreed – to ensure these surgeries are held at set, regular times on dates and in locations widely advertised to maximise awareness and accessibility.

I have heard loud and clear concern expressed from time-to-time about the responsiveness of the non-emergency 101 number. I have asked the Chief Constable to revisit the police telephone system to ensure it is fit for purpose.

As I’ve already said, the budget I propose today is about investing in policing both now and in the future.

Since taking up office as Norfolk’s PCC, I have made significant investment in new technology to ensure Norfolk’s police officers and staff have the equipment they need to do their jobs. That technology is enabling our police to work more efficiently and effectively, fighting crime in the 21st century, maximising officer time and freeing up frontline resources.

From body-worn video to drones and mobile working, the technology which supports policing in Norfolk has, so far, delivered some impressive results.

Body-worn cameras were rolled out on Norfolk’s frontline in May 2017. Officers using the technology have said that, when people see themselves on camera, their attitude changes and they become more reasonable, increasing accountability and reducing assaults on officers. And they report real benefits from gaining evidence first hand and being able to show it to the Crown Prosecution Service to assist in charging decisions or have it used in court. Video taken also clearly shows the impact a person’s behaviour has on a victim – something which can be difficult to portray in a written statement.

As well as body worn cameras, our frontline officers have been issued with mobile phones and tablets which have revolutionised the way they deal with incidents and the service provided to the public. The tablets, particularly, enable officers to carry out tasks which would previously have required them to return to a police station to access a computer. The Force takes an average of 66,000 victim and witness statements each year, and officers are reporting that the use of an online form is saving them around 20 minutes per statement – that’s 22,000 hours a year. As well as saving officer time, this technology is supporting our officers to remain on the beat, meaning they are more visible in communities.

Drone technology is now being used by the Force in the search for missing and wanted people, as well as in the fight against rural crime such as illegal hare coursing activity. Each incident which requires air support currently costs the Constabulary £1,320 so, while drones are not suitable for every deployment, they can be effective and highly efficient in the right situation.

And the work of our Operation Moonshot team is only possible thanks to investment in technology. Officers are preventing and pro-actively targeting criminals who use our road network, with 600 vehicles seized, 400 arrests made and high-value stolen property such as JCBs and tractors recovered. The extension of Operation Moonshot more widely across the county, with financial support from my office, will enhance visibility and make an important additional contribution to combatting criminality.

But we can only continue to deliver these results if that new technology is supported and updated. The budget I propose today will ensure Norfolk can invest in the equipment and infrastructure necessary to continue to deliver a modern, innovative, efficient and effective police service for our county’s residents.

Chairman, Panel Members, you, more than most, are aware of the challenges facing policing in Norfolk, the journey our Constabulary is on, where it has come from and the direction it wants and needs to go. I trust that you will support me as I make this budget proposal to you today with the best interests and safety of our county in mind.

I am incredibly proud of our Norfolk Constabulary, and the professionalism, commitment and sensitivity of its officers and staff. I want to take this opportunity to highlight and recognise the significant contribution that the Police Community Support Officers have made over the years. I continue to scrutinise the Constabulary’s efforts to redeploy as many as possible.

Our Constabulary is recognised nationally as outstanding for efficiency. In spite of great and increasing demands, particularly in areas of threat, risk and harm, we remain one of the safest counties in the country. I will continue to do all I can to provide the resources necessary to keep it that way and support officers and staff in the hard work they do.

I will also continue to reach out to Norfolk’s communities and give everybody the opportunity to influence local policing priorities where they live and work. Everyone has the right to not only be safe, but also feel safe.