Yorkshire’s two largest police forces are among those worst affected nationally by years of austerity with only six other organisations facing bigger percentage cuts to their annual incomes since the Government’s cuts began, it has emerged.
Both South and West Yorkshire Police have seen their incomes shrink by 21 per cent as a result of government policy, with Humberside in 11th position of the 43 forces in England and Wales.
North Yorkshire has seen a much less severe impact, at 33rd on the league table, with cuts that have seen its annual budget shrink by 14 per cent.
The difference in the scale of cuts on each of the four forces highlights the impact on recent Home Office policy, which has increasingly switched the burden of paying for police from central Government onto local council taxpayers.
Although all four forces have seen a similar percentage reduction in money provided by the Government – a 29 per cent cut for North Yorkshire and 30 per cent for the other three – differences in property values have opened a gulf in the money actually received.
Money for policing is added to council tax as a ‘precept’ and in recent years the Government has set relatively high maximum increases, which police and crime commissioners have largely felt obliged to impose. But many of Yorkshire’s large urban communities have homes predominantly in low council tax bandings, meaning even large increases in tax demands on householders bring in relatively modest amounts.
That explains why the Surrey force, which has also seen central funding slashed by 29 per cent, has only seen its actual budget drop by 11 per cent, as an increasing amount of the cost burden is shouldered by local taxpayers.
South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings said that during his years in the role, the Government’s focus had switched from keeping council tax rises as low as possible to putting added responsibility for paying for policing onto householders.
An announcement is expected soon from the Home Office about next year’s spending allocations for police, with speculation that an additional £700m may be made available by Home Secretary Sajid Javid.
Dr Billings told a meeting of his public accountability board that he had found a new realism among the public about what the could expect from today’s police.
“There is much more of a sense of realism from the public about what police can and cannot do,” he said.
“I would say people are aware of what the true position is,” he said.
A Home Office spokesperson said allowing Police and Crime commissioners to raise precepts had enabled each of them to protect their funding in real terms, adding: “There is £1bn more of public money going into policing than three years ago, including council tax.”