'£11.3m of cost-cutting' needed at West Midlands Police as inflation hits

More than £11 million worth of cuts need to be made to balance the books at West Midlands Police - despite a planned increase in council tax.

Funding from the Government is being spent on recruiting new officers
Funding from the Government is being spent on recruiting new officers

The proposed £10 tax increase on Band D properties will not be enough to cover the costs faced by the force in the next financial year, police officials have warned.

It is predicting that savings of £11.3m will be needed for 2022/2023 with inflation, rising energy costs, a recruitment drive and the end of a staff pay freeze all contributing to the financial pressure.

Mark Kenyon, chief finance officer for the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), told a meeting of the region's Strategic Policing and Crime Board that West Midlands Police is set to face "significant" costs.

Mr Kenyon said: "It was announced (by the Government) the pay freeze on police officers and staff will be lifted, with PCCs expected to pay for this pay increase from the funding settlement. As we know, a lot of the police budget is spent on police officers' pay and police staff so that will be a significant cost on the police budget.

"In addition, there will also be pressures around increased NI contributions for employers around the social care levy and also there's other significant cost pressures that we are aware of in the economy, in terms of the cost of gas and electricity, fuel and other costs.

"We expect the inflationary pressures to potentially cost around £25m from next April for the force, which is obviously a significant pressure."

Mr Kenyon is employed by the region's Labour PCC Simon Foster, who has regularly called on the Government to offer more funding and sets the budget for the force.

Last year Mr Foster approved plans to close more than 20 police buildings, including 11 in the Black Country, in a bid to save £5m a year.

Police and Crime Commissioner for the West Midlands Simon Foster has the power to set the police budget

Mr Kenyon said the £10 council tax increase was expected to raise around £9m but would not be enough due to inflation.

Mr Kenyon added the savings needed had increased – having initially been at a projected £6.6m – due to assumptions made around the electricity and gas market.

Meanwhile the increase in council tax will see residents in Band D properties across the region pay an extra 83p per month.

A report to the meeting shows the West Midlands will continue to have the second lowest policing council tax precept in the country at £187.55 for a Band D property, if the rise is approved

That is compared to £248.97 in neighbouring Staffordshire and £250.19 in West Mercia, while the highest precepts in the country are more than £300.

Referring to the council tax rise, West Midlands PCC Simon Foster said: "I would much rather that the Government had fully funded this increase, rather than effectively mandating it and transferring the burden onto local council taxpayers.

"Despite this Government mandated rise, West Midlands Police will still have the second lowest council tax in the country and will be over £60 lower than neighbouring forces such as Warwickshire, West Mercia and Staffordshire.

"With rising costs and inflation, West Midlands Police’s budget remains under pressure, and a further £11.3 million pounds of savings will still be required to balance the budget.

"I would encourage everybody in the West Midlands, if you work, live or study in the region to respond to this consultation. The consultation closes on January 30. So, please make sure you have your say."

West Midlands Police is expected to be handed £559.4m from the Government for 2022/2023 - an increase of £30.7m on the previous year's settlement.

But this additional grant money will be used to recruit an extra 488 officers – up to the target of 1,200 officers.

Police grants are expected to grow by £100m in 2023/2024 (compared with 2022/2023) and by a further £150m (compared to 2023/2024), with WMP seeing their portion of the grant increasing to £6.1m and £9.1m respectively.

Meanwhile Government chiefs expect forces to continue with efficiency pushes and wants to see more than £100m of "cash-able efficiency savings" delivered from force budgets by 2024/2025.

West Midlands Police's budget will be discussed at a board meeting on Monday.

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