Will Forster

Campaigning to be the Lib Dem MP for Woking, Deputy Leader of Woking Borough Council and Councillor in South Woking Learn more

17% budget increase for Police Commissioner’s office at expense of frontline policing

by willforster on 10 February, 2022

Last week, my Lib Dem colleagues and I on the Surrey Police and Crime Panel criticised the Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for raising Council Tax and drawing on reserves to expand their own office’s budget by 17% to £3.3 million a year, while Surrey Police will have to make do with 50 fewer frontline staff than they need to address performance issues.

Local people across Surrey will see the Police’s share of their Council Tax bills increase by 3.5%, but controversially part of this and future tax rises will be used to radically expand the size of the Commissioner’s Office, and hire more communications staff to promote its own role.

Surrey Police meanwhile are being asked to deliver increased savings by targeting an 8% staff vacancy rate.  This means they will on average be 50 staff short in key operational areas, despite seeing deteriorating solved crime figures and a 5 minute average waiting time for 101 callers.

The latest crime statistics for 2021 show Surrey Police solved just 7.2% of serious sexual offences (down from 8.2% in 2020), 3.5% of burglaries (down from 4.9% in 2020) and 1.2% of car crimes (down from 3.2% in 2020). The average waiting time for 101 callers in December 2021 was 4 minutes 57 seconds, up from 1 minute 53 seconds a year earlier in December 2020.

The Tory PCC has previously been criticised for appointing an inexperienced party activist as Deputy Commissioner costing £70,000 a year, against the advice of the cross-party Police and Crime Panel.

In addition, the PCC is now hiring a new head of communications and engagement, a new contact and correspondence officer, an extra partnerships’ officer and an extra officer to support the Commissioner’s national role on the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners.

The Lib Dems and I think increasing the size of the PCC’s Office, rather than investing in front line policing, is the wrong response to Surrey Police’s performance issues.  This is all about priorities, and once again the Conservatives’ priorities are at odds with what local people need.

Residents keep telling me they want to see more visible and responsive policing and a much better performance in solving crime.  A 17% expansion of the Commissioner’s Office coupled with a well-paid Deputy does none of that.  Instead it creates a further crisis of legitimacy for the Conservatives’ deeply flawed and derided PCC model.

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