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PFI contracts cost Dorset Police equivalent of 60 officers a year
4:40pm Tuesday 20th August 2013 in News
DORSET Police is paying out £2.1 million this year to service the debt for building a custody suite at Poole that is rarely ever used and another at Weymouth - enough to put 60 extra officers on the beat.
The figures have been revealed by the county's Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill, who is trying to find a way of stopping the haemorrhage of public money.
“I'm so frustrated by this. I've tried twice to renegotiate the contract but it's absolutely watertight. That money could put 60 police officers on the streets. It's happening in every police force in the country. Hundreds of millions are being spent,” he said.
During the 1990s, Dorset was chosen by the then Conservative government as one of the first police forces to use private finance initiatives. PFI uses private sector money to provide public sector infrastructure, such as new schools and hospitals.
But since the banking crisis, it is seen as an increasingly expensive way of borrowing money, in some cases placing a heavy burden on taxpayers for decades.
The PFI contract used to build the new Poole Police Station and Weymouth West has 14 years left to run and the cost has risen from £1.8 million in 2010 to £2.1 million this year.
At the same time, public services have been hit by funding cuts. Weymouth East police station, also built under a PFI, is now only used by a handful of officers.
For the last two years, the custody suite at the Poole station has only been used at busy periods, such as New Year's Eve, so officers' time is taken up by driving suspects to Bournemouth's custody block.
Mr Underhill said: “This is a national problem. The government pushed this scheme and encouraged lots of public sector agencies to use it. I do feel the government should take some responsibility and look at small, badly-funded forces such as ours.”
Clive Chamberlain, chairman of the Dorset Police Federation, said: “The fact that the people of Dorset are paying millions of pounds for buildings that are no longer being fully used, but due to contractual issues still have to be paid for at a time when we are losing nearly 500 police officers is nothing short of disgraceful.
“It needs urgent government intervention. I can't understand how they can justify paying millions for the next 30 years when the main issue is that we need staff,” he added.
A joint meeting is being held on September 2 to explore the idea of amalgamating “blue light” services to cut down costs.
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