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Leaders warn of tough year ahead despite funding rise

A year of funding pressure is coming despite the Home Office increase, leaders have warned.

A year of cost-saving and supporting partner agencies is on the way following the annual spending settlement, forces have revealed.

Frontline leaders, politicians and partner agencies have all warned of tough times despite a 7% grant increase from the Home Office.

The multi-year agreement will cover Uplift and central government priorities with the rest having to effectively come from funding bids and precept increases.

And the Home Office announcement also revealed forces were expected to make £100m in cost savings over the next three years - and that demand was front-loaded with an £80m cut next year.

The grant for local authorities has also been confirmed but it was described as a one year stop-gap and won’t be enough to resuscitate services that tackle youth crime or child protection work.

Frontline leaders said the deal was a short-term fix that did nothing to tackle the deeper problems facing the Service.

And the official statement made no mention of a pay deal.

A Police Federation of England and Wales spokesperson said: “We need a long-term recruitment drive, but this is heavily reliant on an increase in local tax precepts.

“Inflation has also hit a decade high and the government must commit to increasing police pay substantially which factors in the rising costs of living. We urgently need the government to give police officers a pay rise to make a positive difference.”

The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners said there was scope for wages but even they admitted inflation could wipe out any agreement.

And Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell said this year’s National Insurance rise hadn’t been factored in.

“It is deeply disappointing that, yet again, no extra money has been provided by the government to cover any pay rise or inflationary pressures, which are now at record levels,” she said.

“Furthermore, ministers have completely failed to explain how the increase in National Insurance rates will be funded, despite previously indicating the bill would be picked up by central government. If we are forced to fund this locally, it will set Merseyside Police back £2.2m – money we simply cannot spare.”

Partner agencies have also been hit. Local government was effectively given a one-year settlement meaning youth service and social services will not be able to improve to take pressure off forces.

Councils will get £822m between them – an increase of 4% that builds in a 2% increase in council tax.

Local authority chief executives said it wasn’t enough for them to be able to respond to the fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak or do anything to meet rising demand such as safeguarding.

Martin Reeves, their finance lead said: “While providing some extra money is always welcome, it still falls far short of what is required - making councils wait for an insufficient finance settlement when they are having to contend with some of the most extraordinary funding pressures as a result of the pandemic is not only unnecessary but damaging to the people and places we serve.”

There is one small consolation. Local government Secretary Michael Gove confirmed work has begun to get rid of the hated funding formula which even he admitted is now hopelessly out of date.

He said: “The data used to assess this has not been updated in a number of years, dating from 2013-14 to a large degree, and even as far back as 2000.

“Over the coming months, we will work closely with the sector and other stakeholders to update this and to look at the challenges and opportunities facing the sector before consulting on any potential changes.”

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