Unanimous Panel support for new Norfolk Policing Budget
Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Giles Orpen-Smellie’s proposals for the 2023/24 Norfolk policing budget received a unanimous endorsement from the county’s Police and Crime Panel.
The PCC took his proposals for an 5.2% increase of the policing element of council tax to a meeting of the Panel on Thursday 2 February.
The rise represents an increase of £14.94, or 29p a week, on a Band D property, or £11.62, 22p a week, on a Band B property.
PCCs are responsible for setting the policing budget for their force area and, with it, how much local taxpayers contribute to funding their police service through their council tax.
Speaking to the Panel, which is made up of councillors and independent members, Giles Orpen-Smellie said: “By way of context, the ten years of austerity required savings of £42m to be found from Norfolk’s budget. In addition, the budget also had to absorb £174m in aggregated inflation over that same period. In short, austerity left Norfolk Constabulary as a lean and arguably, given the demands placed on it by the public, an under resourced organisation.
And now policing, like everyone else, is feeling the effect of the inflation spike. The government set the Constabulary’s budget in the 2021 Comprehensive Review based on inflation peaking at 4%. Instead, inflation rose to 11.1% in October last year and today stands at 10.5%. The funding increase of £7.4m announced by the government on 14 December represents a 3.8% increase, which does not sit comfortably with inflation above 10%. Furthermore, the government expected the PCC to find £5.5M of the £7.4M with an increase in the precept.
“I can balance the budget, just, with a 5.19% increase and the Constabulary’s 3% efficiencies but there will be some penalties. Where things become more difficult is when I come to the financial year 24/25, year three of the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR).
“Now is not the time for me to ask the Chief Constable to reduce police head count, capability and activity which I fear is a consequence of further financial retrenchment. Now is not the time to put at risk the great work the Chief Constable and his officers are doing to restore visible community policing which as you know is a pillar of my Police, Crime and Community Safety Plan.
The Chief Constable, Paul Sanford, was invited to offer his operational perspective on the matter. “I need to be clear from the outset that even after increasing the precept as proposed by the Commissioner, I will have very limited scope to increase capability or capacity in key areas, such as fraud and cybercrime. This proposal is about lessening impact rather than maintenance or growth but if precept is not increased, there will be significant operational consequences.
“In summary, I don’t think we have ever been so busy as a service and the demands we are facing are becoming increasingly complex.”
Challenges mentioned included:
- Volumes of 999 calls have increased by 13%. Last year the constabulary answered 120,000 calls for those people calling in crisis.
- A significant increase in Missing Person Reports – 7,400 in the last year.
- An ever-growing volume of calls relating to mental health.
- More policing of protests, events and highways related issues.
- More domestic abuse, more sexual offences, up 13.5% from last year.
- Complex, less visible and impacted forms of criminality increasing and they are the ones which require specialist, intensive resource and more costly to resolve.
Based on the information provided by the Chief Constable, the PCC launched a two-week public consultation on 3 January 2023 to seek residents’ views on a 5.2% increase in order to sustain current levels of policing service and tackle the growing challenges that the police are facing. On launching the consultation, the PCC urged participants to support the proposal saying, “I have discussed with the Chief Constable every possibility to save money across current staffing capability and activity and I can assure you that the constabulary are as efficient in using your money as they possibly can be. Indeed, His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services recently graded Norfolk Constabulary as ‘Outstanding’ for their efficient and effective use of resources.”
888 people took part in the 2023/24 budget consultation, which was available online and in hard copy form, which were completed mostly at public engagements during the consultation period. 51% agreed with the recommendation to an increase, 6% neither agreed or disagreed and 43% disagreed.
Presenting the budget proposal, alongside the revenue budget and capital programme for 2023/24 and the budget medium-term financial plan to 2023/27, the PCC thanked Panel members for their support.
The PCC’s public consultation ran from 3 January 2023 to 16 January 2023.
Full details of this meeting of the Norfolk Police and Crime Panel, including a video of the meeting, are available on the Norfolk County Council website