The West Midlands Police and Crime Panel met on Monday to discuss the upcoming budget for West Midlands Police.
Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson told the Panel of a £14.3 million shortfall in current plans for the 2021/22 budget.
The government will give West Midlands Police £528 million to support policing over the next year – as well as a small cut of the £670 million Local Government Finance Settlement, designed to help councils through the pandemic.
A planned rise in the police precept – the amount taken from council tax to fund the police – will aim to bring in another £127.6 million.
This still leaves a £14.3 million gap between available funding, and what West Midlands Police want to spend.
Why is there a shortfall?
PCC Jamieson pointed to lost council taxes and COVID cuts as two big reasons for the shortfall.
He claimed that the police have lost 25% of their funding in “real terms” since 2010.
There has also been the loss of contractual policing on private property – such as policing done at Birmingham Airport.
Rises in domestic abuse and fraud, COVID policing, plus the return of “street crimes” like burglary that fell sharply in the first lockdown, have also increased pressure on police services.
How will the shortfall be addressed?
PCC Jamieson wants to use a combination of asset sales and closures to make up the shortfall.
Empty buildings and old equipment can be closed or sold to raise funds or reduce upkeep costs.
The WMP2020 programme will also be ending in the next 6 months, and the efficiency benefits of the 5-year programme should help with ongoing costs.
The force also has a reserve fund of more than £50 million to pull from – although Jamieson would like to use as little of it as possible to future-proof the force.
What happens next?
The Police and Crime Panel will meet again on the 1st February, to look at the results of the public consultation on increasing the precept.
The Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office will also look at exactly what can be closed or sold to make up the shortfall.
There are also operational matters to address – Brexit has made international intelligence-gathering and policing more difficult. A report by Sir Dave Thompson, Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, will be coming soon.
Birmingham Eastside reporter Tom Fair livetweeted the Police and Crime Panel meeting on the 11th January – you can find that below.