Thames Valley Police’s medium term budget for the next three years has been approved but the future of the mounted police and police dogs are still under review.
Chief Constable Francis Habgood presented the capital and revenue plans to the Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley, Anthony Stansfeld, at a public meeting at the force’s headquarters in Kidlington, on Tuesday, January 23.
Chief Constable Francis Habgood said: “I presented a three year budget to the PCC that is balanced on the basis of what we know today. I welcome the PCC’s decision to increase the Council Tax Precept for 2018/19, subject to approval by the Police and Crime Panel, to improve the funding position for the force.
“Like all forces nationally, we continue to experience financial pressures caused by inflation and challenging operational requirements.
“We need to find, and will find, savings of about £15 million over the next three years. Thames Valley Police already has a great track record in improving efficiency. We have already saved about £99 million since 2010. That is almost a quarter of the budget for next year.
“There has been some public interest in our plans for the Joint Operations Unit (JOU) which we operate jointly with Hampshire Constabulary. The JOU has been carefully assessed to ensure we maximise our finite resources.
“We are still reviewing our operational requirements for a Mounted Section and the financial implications, but no decisions have been made about its long term future. I can confirm that we have no intention to remove our Mounted Section before Ascot 2019 at the earliest.
“I continue to receive representations from officers and stakeholders about alternative means of funding this iconic service and a full range of options will be considered over the coming year.
“In relation to the Dogs Unit we have more dog handlers and dogs than other equivalent forces and plans are under development to review how they are deployed across the two forces.
He added: “We will be removing a number of vacancies that have been carried for some time in our Roads Policing Unit and we are also reorganising the way firearms incidents are managed to bring us in line with other forces.
“We will always be required to make tough decisions about how best to shape our organisation. We have to both deliver today, and also plan for the future to ensure we continue to keep the communities of Thames Valley safe.”
Despite the huge budgetary cuts the force has had to make Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) assessed Thames Valley Police as being ‘outstanding’ in terms of efficiency in November of last year; only two of the 43 forces in England and Wales received this grading.
Anthony Stansfeld, Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley,said: “Over the last seven years £99m has been removed from the Thames Valley Police budget and a further £14.3m savings need to be made over the next three years. The force has risen to this challenge and managed to make efficiency savings across the organisation, however, with demands on policing continuing to increase we have now reached the stage that any further cuts would have a fundamental impact on the front line.
“The policing settlement we received from the government before Christmas allowed for an increase in funding to local policing but that additional funding has to be raised by increasing the local council tax.
“Before I made a decision on the level of council tax I sought the views of residents in the Thames Valley and out of 5,600 people surveyed nearly 85 per cent agreed to an increase in council tax to fund policing.
“Like many who took part in the survey, I strongly believe that the additional funding should come directly from government and I will continue to highlight this to the Home Secretary and the Policing Minister.
“However, to ensure that we protect the front line I have made the decision to increase the police element of the council tax by £12 for the equivalent of a Band D property.
“This increase has allowed Thames Valley Police to set a three year budget that both protects the current level of policing and allows for additional resource in areas of demand such as protecting vulnerable people and child sexual exploitation as well as investments in new technology.
“The budget was still a challenging one to set and demand on the police will need to be continuously reviewed over the coming months and years to ensure that it remains fit for purpose.
“Over recent days there has been significant coverage regarding possible cuts to the Mounted Section and the Dog Section within the Thames Valley. I can confirm that the budget I approved today does not include any reductions in the funding for these departments.
He added: “The Chief Constable has assured me that he is currently reviewing how they are deployed and the operational requirements and that no decisions have been made to make cuts to either unit. I recognise the valuable contribution both the Mounted Section and Dog Section make to policing in the area and I remain fully supportive of both sections. Once the review has been completed I will discuss further with the Chief Constable.
“The budget will now go to the Police and Crime Panel on the 2 February for final ratification.”