Last week, the cross-party County Police and Crime Panel unanimously approved my budget, my first since I was elected last May.  I believe it is the best budget the Constabulary has received in a generation, as it is focuses on strengthening your Constabulary and using every pound raised in taxation to increase its personnel.

Over the next two financial years, I expect the force to grow by over 400 people, split roughly 50:50 between full time and volunteer officers and staff.  For just £10 extra a year for each Band D council tax property, this represents excellent value for money, as recent police budgets have averaged almost £14 extra each year, yet failed to achieve anything like the expansion propsed in this budget. Further personnel increases are under active investigation, particularly if we can confiscate more money from organised drugs gangs, cyber criminals and fraudsters.

Strengthening your Constabulary was a major commitment I made in my election campaign, and I remain determined to grow it as much as I can.  I am also working hard to find alternative sources of funding, and last year my hard-working team were successful in raising an additional £4 million, which will help tackle violence and intimidation against women and girls and other priorities.

“We need more community crime fighters”

I continue to hold the Chief to account on finding solutions to the highly critical HM Inspectorate report of last year, which highlighted poor performance with crime recording and slow response times in the force control room to 999 and 101 non-emergency calls. Significant enhancements to specialist police staff are part of my budget investment to address the Inspectorate’s areas of concern.

Later this year, I anticipate finalising the business case to make a significant capital investment in a state-of-the-art records management system. The current one is out of date, has limited functionality, is expensive to run and is the only one of its type left in the country.  I am also keen to see if we can improve the service that is provided to rural areas, by co-locating police response vehicles in rural fire stations.

All in all, it is an ambitious budget designed to strengthen your Constabulary and underpin a major push to recruit more full-time officers, staff and volunteers into the force.  Watch out for the adverts and please consider volunteering yourself, as we need more community crime fighters.