In my experience, it’s rare you will find a truly contented Master of Coin (sic Games of Thrones), but the smile on my chief finance officer’s face told its own story.
However, the Constabulary reporting a break-even position with expenditure equal to budget for 2018/19 is not the main headline. I thought you would like to know that every penny of the £1.7m you contributed through last year’s council tax increase has gone towards keeping you safe and making Gloucestershire an even better place to be.
It has enabled neighbourhood policing and child protection teams to recruit an additional 30 officers and staff and all front line officers and staff are now equipped with body worn video cameras.
By 31st March, when the financial year ended, the Constabulary had 1,062 police officers, eight more than its original target for this period, and means it is already ahead of schedule for its ambitious plans to recruit another 50 officers by the end of March 2020. Those will come out of this year’s precept increase and will take the number of officers to over 1,100 with a further 85 to replace those who retire and leave.
On top of that, the Chief Constable can now call upon 161 Special Constables who contributed 41,000 hours of duty during the year – a significant increase on last year’s 31,000 hours – and 362 volunteers.
There is also a significant amount of money set aside to fund the Emergency Services’ Network and for further investment in the capital strategy. So, although the Chief Constable would always want more money to invest – and who wouldn’t? – the financial situation is currently healthy.
Finally, thank you to everyone who took part in the public consultation on fire governance as part of the process I am carrying out on behalf of the Government.
Despite the well documented opposition from some county councillors it was interesting to see that most firefighters and police officers who responded supported the business case I have prepared. It has been an interesting debate and whichever side of the discussion you are on, the final decision now rests with the Home Secretary.
It’s just a shame the situation in Westminster means it won’t now be before next May.