You may be aware that the Home Office has been conducting a review into the way in which the central Government policing budget is allocated across forces with a view to developing a funding formula that is fit-for-purpose and sustainable.
Policing partners and the public have been consulted and earlier this month chief constables and PCCs received a letter from Policing Minister Mike Penning MP outlining the proposed refinements to the way in which central Government policing budgets will be allocated.
I cannot express enough my disappointment to see that under the latest proposal for central Government funding Bedfordshire is set to receive no additional funds. I know that you will share my disappointment at hearing this news.
With more cuts looming, I really do fear that this force will become unsustainable – we will no longer be able to deliver some services or respond to incidents in the way we do currently.
Bedfordshire Police has been under-funded for a very long time and we are already over-stretched; with only 169 police officers for 100,000 of the population – compared to the national average of 232 and 388 in the Met.
This is despite facing significant challenges; we are the fourth highest force for gun crime in the country, and we have a similar level of burglary robbery and vehicle crime to the West Midlands, who have 256 police officers per 100,000 of the population.
Here in Bedfordshire we face the most significant serious and organised crime challenges of any force in the region, so it seems incredulous that we have fared the worst in the funding proposals. My worry is that if we continue to be under-funded, then we will not be in a position to continue to provide the same level of service to protect people in our communities.
Bedfordshire may be a small county, but it is incredibly complex to police. We have an international airport, busy road network and some of the highest levels of gun crime, knife crime and serious acquisitive crime in the country, yet have one of the lowest rates of officers per head of population.
I am completely committed to fight crime and protect the people of Bedfordshire in any way that I can. We were the first force to collaborate a department with another force and we have recently introduced a new operating model and time-saving technologies which will go some way to delivering savings. But this is simply not enough to sustain the viability of the force with the proposed levels of Government funding.
That’s why I’m urging everyone in the communities we serve to show their support for our hard-working, brave, over stretched officers by signing the petition that Commissioner Olly Martins has launched, which pushes for a fairer deal for Bedfordshire, enabling us to continue to protect people, fight crime, and keep Bedfordshire Police.
Jon Boutcher QPM