In September, and without warning, the Treasury announced changes to the way it calculates employers’ contribution to police pensions.
On first reading, it seemed no more than a bureaucratic technicality. And yet, it will see another £165 million being cut from front line policing next year and £400 million every year thereafter.
Since becoming Gloucestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner in 2012, and having served many years on the board of the association that brings the 40 commissioners together, this is the only issue to unite every commissioner – irrespective of politics - and every chief constable.
Could it be the straw that breaks the camel’s back?
For Gloucestershire Police, it would mean increased costs of £1.5m in 2019 and £3.3m per year thereafter; extra expenditure that could only be met by the chief constable cutting officers and staff or further increases in council tax. Either solution would be outrageous.
Last week, MP’s on the Home Affairs Select committee warned of ‘dire consequences for public safety and criminal justice’ if the government doesn’t increase funding for the police. The Chancellor’s budget announcement of more money for counter terrorism is welcome but with cracks beginning to show in other areas, make no mistake, we are all deeply worried.
Gloucestershire Constabulary has weathered the storm of austerity relatively well. It’s been tough but neighbourhood policing is back, officer numbers are slowly increasing and a cautious sense of optimism had returned. After months of planning investments for the next four years that would really improve policing in the county, if common sense doesn’t prevail we may have to hit the brakes or even select reverse.
As your commissioner and Vice Chair of the Association of Police & Crime Commissioners, I met the Police & Fire Minister Nick Hurd in Parliament to set out in technical and real terms the issues we face. Undoubtedly, the Minister shares our concerns and will lobby the Treasury to think again - and I’m calling on all our MP’s to do the same
This pension issue is a technical one that no PCC can fix so it’s time for the bureaucrats to step up and find an answer. The police are not asking to be made a special case, merely to be treated the same as others. But the changes proposed mean the impact disproportionately hurts the police and indirectly us all.
This article also appeared in the Gloucester Citizen and Gloucestershire Echo 01 November 2018