The Home Office has finally unveiled the figures behind the police funding formula review, which show that, after years of underfunding, they still want Bedfordshire's share of the funding cake to remain exactly the same at just 0.9% of the national police grant.
Shocked PCC Olly Martins said, "The Conservative Government appears set on playing politics not only with Bedfordshire's policing but also with national security, and all because they don't want to risk losing the 2016 London mayoral election.
"The Government is about to totally chicken out of reforming the police funding formula, which would have required a serious redistribution of resources away from the Met and towards underfunded forces like Bedfordshire.
"If they proceed on the basis of their published figures the government needs to be very clear that, if there is a serious terrorist incident involving extremists connected with Luton, the responsibility is theirs and not that of the ridiculously overstretched and under-resourced Bedfordshire Police.
"According to the latest figures, in Bedfordshire we have 163 police officers per 100,000 population. This is way below the national average of 226 and less than half the Metropolitan Police's 381.
"Luton is responsible for policing an area that has many of the characteristics of an inner London borough, but with a fraction of the police resource. Luton is therefore clearly under-policed and the knock-on impact is that the remainder of the county is exceptionally under-policed. The Chief Constable says we would need 300 more officers to be on a par with other forces, but the government looks set to send our police strength in the opposite direction.
"I triggered the council tax referendum in May because, on the basis of predicted 20% government funding cuts, Bedfordshire Police would need to freeze recruitment and cut the number of police officers within the next 2 years. The Chancellor is now saying the cuts will actually be anything between 25% and 40% and I shudder to think what this will mean now that it looks like we will not benefit from a larger and fairer slice of the government's police grant.
"Following the referendum I met with the Policing Minister, Mike Penning MP, and subsequently a Home Office task force was sent in to Bedfordshire Police to undertake a 'deep dive' on our finances and the challenges we face as a rurally funded force policing urban challenges. The Government appears intent on completely ignoring the evidence that was carefully presented to them.
"Earlier this year the spending watchdog the National Audit Office criticised the Home Office for not understanding the impact of its funding reductions on individual forces and not knowing what a failing police force actually looks like. Because we have already restructured, collaborated and cut to the bone to make savings, I fear Bedfordshire may be about to find out what ‘unviable’ means for a police force.
"The Home Office is undertaking a brief period of further consultation on its formula review proposals until 30 October. I am urging those concerned about dwindling police strength in the county to lobby their Member of Parliament, even at this eleventh hour”.
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Police and Crime Commissioner's Office at http://www.bedfordshire.pcc.police.uk/