The funding settlement announced today by the Government recognises the increasing demand on the police, and particularly on forces such as Thames Valley.
I have lobbied the Government for a much-needed increase in police funding and so I am pleased that today the Government has announced that an additional £813m will be available nationally to Police and Crime Commissioners to fund local police forces. However, it must be recognised that more than half of this funding (£509m) is expected to come from local taxpayers by increasing the police portion of the Council Tax.
Demand on police forces has risen significantly in the last year as a result of changing crime. There has been a major increase in the reporting of high harm and previously hidden crimes such as child sexual abuse and modern slavery and the challenge from serious and organised crime networks is growing. In addition the police are dealing with a large amounts of non-crime business, especially in relation to mental health. Nationally there has also been a spike in serious violence and knife crime.
My focus will continue to be on delivering strong neighbourhood policing for all of the communities across the Thames Valley. This additional funding will allow us to avoid what would otherwise have been unacceptable reductions in resources and to invest in ensuring Thames Valley Police continue to protect our communities.
I will be sitting down with the Chief Constable over the next few days to consider how best to utilise this additional funding. There are significant competing demands and we will discuss the best way to invest this additional money in order to deliver the best possible operational policing. There will always be some inescapable cost pressures such as pay and price increases, and additional pension costs, but I want to ensure we provide additional funding for areas such as front-line police officers, improved call-handling (responding to 101 calls) and investigative capability.
I will be running a public consultation exercise over the Christmas period to gather local council taxpayer views on the proposed increase in the police portion of the council tax of £24 for a band D property. This increase will enable me to protect many of the vital functions that may otherwise have been reduced, and ensure that Thames Valley Police has more resources to tackle crime and keep the public safe.