Dorset Chief Constable James Vaughan has warned that financial restrictions could mean that the police are ‘no longer be able to provide anything but the most basic services to the most vulnerable sectors of our community’.
Speaking about the Police and Crime Commissioner’s comments to the Dorset Police and Crime Panel on 13 November, he said: “The Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill has today outlined our shared concerns about the future financial picture for Dorset Police.
“Whilst we remain committed to providing the best possible policing service to communities across Dorset, I am extremely concerned that the stark reality of our current financial outlook means that we may no longer be able to provide anything but the most basic services to the most vulnerable sectors of our community.
“The Chancellor’s budget this year provided much needed and welcome additional funding for health, education and defence but identified no additional funds for police forces; only a very small one-off increase to support Counter Terrorism policing. This, combined with the potential changes to employer pension contributions, and normal inflationary pressures will remove more than £4 million a year from the Force budget in coming years.
“The budget for Dorset Police has already reduced by £25 million since the introduction of the Government’s austerity programme and, as a direct result, we have had to reduce our workforce by 500 officers and staff. This rate of decline simply cannot continue without having a significant impact on our services.
“In addition I have a growing concern that demand for policing is now rising at an alarming rate. Crime and incidents, across the county, have increased by nearly 10 per cent over the last year and without an investment in resources that allow us to intervene early and prevent crime and ASB I can only see that rise continuing.
“The dynamics of crime over recent years have shifted markedly and we are now experiencing higher levels of arguably the most harmful crime such as sexual assaults, domestic assaults, child sexual exploitation, modern slavery and cybercrime. Not only are these crimes a high threat, they also require more specialised and time-consuming investigations in order to protect and safeguard victims, particularly those who are vulnerable.
“All of these pressures take their toll on my officers and staff who are working hard to deliver services in an increasingly difficult landscape. Their frustrations at being asked to deliver so much more with so much less are clear and the strain is beginning to show.
“My predecessor and I have sought to save money by collaborating with partners such as Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Devon & Cornwall Police, but there are limited further efficiencies that can be made in those areas.
“Dorset Police is a good force, consistently judged to be efficient and effective by our independent inspectorate HMICFRS. As Chief Constable my responsibility is to serve the people of Dorset and to continue to provide all of our communities with a good policing service. I will continue to work with the PCC to do so, but it is becoming an increasing challenge.”