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Police reserves will be spent

Uncertainty over future revenue: PCC Christopher Salmon
Uncertainty over future revenue: PCC Christopher Salmon

POLICE AND CRIME Commissioner Christopher Salmon is to use the Dyfed Powys Police reserves to meet ongoing revenue requirements.

In the Budget report, Mr Salmon says: “I have sought to act prudently and reflect the uncertainty which still remains in relation to future financial settlements for policing the Dyfed Powys area, whilst setting a challenging but achievable cost reduction target for the Chief Constable.”

While the reduction in the central government grant to the Police has gone down by 0.6%, the cut to the overall Police budget will be significantly higher following the Commissioner’s decision to freeze the Force’s Council Tax precept and taxation and national insurance changes.

The actual cut, in money terms, the Commissioner proposes is just over £3m out of a budget of £93m: just under three and a quarter percent

The Commissioner acknowledges that the introduction of a new funding formula, due to be introduced in 2017/18, will provide a period of uncertainty.

However, and notwithstanding such uncertainty, the Commissioner plans to use in excess of £24m of reserves over the next three years. That is as one with the Commissioner’s plans to PCC’s to use reserves to fund an element of the revenue budgets for 2015/16 to 2018/19.

At the end of 2015/16 total reserves are expected to be approximately £30.121m. The Police plans anticipate spending of £24.103m over the coming four years. At the end of 2019/20, the general reserve will remain at £4.5m. Other reserves will amount to £1.518m.

Some of that expenditure, £4m, is necessary to extract the Force from the ruinous PFI contract it entered into in respect of Ammanford Police Station. That contract is one for which Mr Salmon is not responsible and upon which he acted swiftly in resolution

It is the use of reserves to fund £4m of revenue expenditure, and effectively bankroll reducing and freezing the Force’s Council Tax precept is one that is unusual, not least as had the Police moderately increased its precept (as it could have done) the amount taken out of the reserves would have been reduced and operational flexibility maintained.

As plans currently stand, the whole of the capital reserve will be depleted by the end of 2019/20.

The Herald understands the position to be that the reserves constitute money the public have paid, and the plan is to spend the majority of it over the coming years, the Commissioner believes wisely, leaving a much more modest but workable reserve at the end of the process.

In view of the coming election, the issue of the financial prudence of such a move is likely to be a significant issue, alongside the vexed issue of the fate of the Force’s helicopter; a subject that still rankles with the public and is a subject all opposing candidates in the forthcoming election for the position of Police and Crime Commissioner seem likely to attempt to exploit.

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