Scrutiny panel given preview of Sussex Police budget

Police executed a number of warrants in Portsmouth
Police executed a number of warrants in Portsmouth

Sussex’s Police and Crime Commissioner has been encouraged to look at how Sussex Police could increase collaboration with other forces before presenting her final budget in the New Year.

At its meeting on Friday, October 10, the Police and Crime Panel was given a glimpse of the work underway to balance the books and target investment in 2015/16.

But members were keen for greater sharing of back office services with neighbouring forces to be looked into in a bid to drive down costs.

Since 2010 Sussex Police has saved £50million, but further savings of £55million will need to be found over the next four years if predictions about future funding are correct.

Following Treasury announcements that the level of government funding would be reduced next year, two options were shared with the Panel, which scrutinises the work of the Commissioner. One was for a freeze in Sussex Police’s share of council tax, the other a rise of 1.98 per cent depending on the cap the Government imposes.

Within the report were details of investment that Sussex Police is recommending should be made in safeguarding, visible policing and cybercrime – and these are also priorities for the force this financial year.

Having been told that the Police and Crime Plan priorities could be delivered with a frozen precept, members of the Panel warned that the Commissioner would need to present compelling reasons for any proposed increase to the precept. The Panel will formally review the Commissioner’s proposed precept for 2015/16 at its meeting on January 23, 2015.

After the meeting on Friday, October 10, Panel chairman and West Sussex County councillor Brad Watson said it was important for the Panel to have an interim report into the work taking place.

“It is very useful to understand at an early stage what pressures the Commissioner is facing when drawing up her budget for the next financial year. It also gives Panel members the opportunity to raise any issues before a final budget is brought before them.

He added: “The Panel is very keen to see greater collaboration with neighbouring forces on administration services, in the hope that further savings can be found and the burden on the taxpayer is minimal. This meeting gave them the chance to highlight this to the Commissioner and her team.”

The Panel were also informed of a grant from the Ministry of Justice to improve the county’s Restorative Justice scheme, which gives victims of crime the opportunity to face the person responsible.

The funding of £289,000 covers two years with half that amount available in 2015/16. It is hoped the money will enable an infrastructure to be put in place for the service to be sustainable after this time.

The Panel heard from a victim of burglary who had chosen to meet the person responsible. She spoke about the benefits to her and her family and to the man convicted of the crime, who was able to see the impact his offending had on his victims.

The Commissioner also gave an update on the achievements of the police against the Police and Crime Plan between April and September and answered questions on subjects ranging from a threat of police constables being removed from community policing teams to how the success of a cybercrime initiative will be measured.