Derbyshire Police Authority has agreed a plan which could seal the end of its recruitment freeze three years early.
The Police Authority has already secured £15m of the £19m it needs to plug the funding gap that resulted from a 20% reduction in its Government grant until 2015. Through efficiency savings and prudent spending, the Authority is now in a position to draw more than £1m from its budget reserves to invest in more bobbies from as early as next year (2012) which will ensure the force remains one step ahead of the game and has the resilience to deal with future crime threats.
Recognising the challenging economic situation, Derbyshire Police Authority made timely contingency plans to address the likely financial hardship it would face in order to protect frontline services, identifying £6million of savings even before the Government announced the funding squeeze. Tough decisions followed when the scale of the financial challenge was revealed which has resulted in the loss of some 250 staff posts and a freeze on all recruitment for officers and staff from July 2010.
Through a series of streamlining measures, including collaborative work such as Major Crime and Forensics, a review of the force’s estate, cutting police overtime and a reduction in the size of its vehicle fleet, the Force and Authority has not only been able to deliver the majority of its savings requirements but also build a healthy cash reserve for future investment in the force. This fund provides the Authority with a safety net, offering the opportunity to sustain the thin blue line in Derbyshire and close the gap with its neighbours, who have nearly 20 more officers for every 100,000 residents, as well as increase investment in technology. Members of Derbyshire Police Authority have now formerly agreed a budget strategy which will enable this to take place.
Philip Hickson, chairman of Derbyshire Police Authority, said: “This is an enviable position to be in so early into our recovery plan and means Derbyshire residents can start to look forward to a strengthened police presence in the near future which I hope will increase confidence and reassurance in the county.
“We’ve made some difficult choices over the past two years in order to meet the unprecedented financial challenge we faced while still retaining the quality of service the public rightly expects. Those decisions are thankfully now justified in light of the huge progress we’ve made in our budget plans and the healthier financial position we find ourselves in.
“Our residents have told us they would like to see more police officers visible in the community and to be considering doing just that three years ahead of schedule is nothing short of astonishing. I’m confident that this signals the start of a more positive future for Derbyshire where the emphasis will be less about finances and more about innovation and performance success.”
Working together, Derbyshire Police Authority and Constabulary has made more than £50m of efficiencies since 2002/3. Many of these have been achieved through pushing more officer resources towards the front line. In the last five years, the Authority has made real savings of £20m and is regularly among the top performing forces nationally for providing value for money and financial management.