DORSET'S new Police and Crime Commissioner will be lobbying government to review budget cuts which he says has put public safety at risk and the county at "tipping point".
The force has already made savings of £10 million and now has to achieve another £10 million before 2014/15. It has been warned to find a further £3 million of savings and the government has recently suggested it could be hit with even more cuts before 2018.
Martyn Underhill said he will be penning a letter to the Home Secretary and Chancellor to inform them that any further cuts past the £23 million mark “will put public safety at risk".
"These are dire times for Dorset and its residents. The potential of further cuts takes us to tipping point."
Mr Underhill said that Dorset Police has been subject to a recruitment freeze since 2010 and if that were to continue until 2018 the service would become “critically unstable”.
He said the force hopes to recruit new officers in the coming year or two to “redress the balance” of the mix of experienced officers with those with under 0-5 years service.
“We have come to the stage where public safety will be put at risk - that's how bad it's got.”
Mr Underhill and Chief Constable Debbie Simpson yesterday revealed their savings action plan - which they say will look at more innovative ways to police the county.
Ideas put forward include selling older police stations, replacing them with police hubs and giving officers tablets so they can work out and about in the community.
The force is also calling on the public to join the “Dorset Police family” as special constables, street pastors, mentors or through Neighbourhood Watch groups.
A public consultation on the changes will take place at the beginning of January and will finish at the end of February/early March.
Chief Cons Simpson said: “We have made significant savings over the past three years but these remain challenging times. We must find alternative, more cost efficient and cost effective, ways of delivery our services.”
Dorset now has 170 fewer officers than in 2010 and has lost 186 members of police staff and 24 Police Community Support Officers. She said the force has achieved this without cutting back on frontline services.
There are four main areas the force has identified for potential cuts brought about as part of the Government's Comprehensive Spending Review.
- territorial policing to save £3.8m
- crime and criminal justice to save £2.3m by restructuring management
- operational support to save £2.5m by closing some police stations, introducing a victim bureau in the call handling area, as well as introducing volunteers and collaborating with other forces to run some services such as the marine policing unit
- support services to save a further £1m
Mr Underhill, who was elected as Dorset's first Police and Crime Commissioner in November on a £70,000-salary, said he is making his dent in the force's savings by refusing to hire a deputy - saving the force £54,000.
Here is his full statement from this morning;
Martyn Underhill, Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset open the meeting by announcing. “The very fact that this is our first joint conference suggests that we have something important to say.
“To put some context into our discussion, this Force entered into a two-phase system of implementing cuts called "One Team" some time ago and the first phase has now been achieved.
“The second phase could not be scoped or implemented until this Summer's Olympics had been delivered. Now that the Olympics have been and gone, Phase 2 of meeting the cuts now needs to take place and it does so ON MY WATCH
“To bring us up to date, in the past few weeks we have been told by Government that the cuts will now continue until 2018. In the Chancellor's Autumn statement we hear veiled threats of a further 2% reduction in 2014/2015 and on the horizon we have a future CSR which could deliver further cuts of up to 10%
“These are dire times for Dorset, and the potential of further cuts takes us to a TIPPING POINT.
“The Chief Constable and I are working together in partnership to establish a model of policing for Dorset that is both sustainable and scalable in the light of current and future cuts.
“We owe it to the staff of this organisation and to the public to create a model of policing that can grow or shrink according to the budget allocation from the Government in the next five years.
“Before we look in detail at what the Force is going to do to achieve the necessary reduction I want to point out 3 important issues:
“Firstly, whatever model of policing is implemented, we will deliver the MANIFESTO that the public voted for in the recent election.
“Secondly, the CONCEPT OF NEIGHBOURHOOD POLICING and the vital role of the Police Community Support Officer in the Dorset Police family will be FUNDEMENTAL to our delivery of our services.
“Thirdly, I stood for election on the platform of tapping into "THE OLYMPIC SURGE”. I knew from the cuts that were coming that we desperately needed the help of the public as volunteers, special constables, mentors and street pastors. This need for public engagement in helping us police this beautiful county has not diminished and we will be starting recruitment campaigns in the New Year to meet those needs."