West Midlands police and crime commissioner David Jamieson has warned further government-imposed budget cuts of five per cent would “throw a spanner in the works” of the force’s radical five-year modernisation plans.
Mr Jamieson has spoken out against further cuts which are expected to be announced in the Chancellor’s emergency budget next month.
Cuts of another five per cent would see £26 million removed from the budget this year, which is the equivalent of 500 police officers.
The dangers of deeper budget cuts were discussed at this week’s police and crime board, which heard the force had managed to achieve a 0.5 per cent underspend in its last budget.
Chief finance officer Mike Williams said the last budget was as close to being balanced as possible, but added £7.3 million of reserves had been used to employ the first new recruits since 2010.
Mr Williams warned that the Chancellor’s emergency budget on July 8 could create a “very significant challenge” for the force.
He said; “I am really pleased to present this out-turn. It’s as close to a budget we have been near for some time. There has been a number of challenges, but we have managed them within the total and have achieved a very small underspend.
“It is ever so difficult to second-guess the impact of the budget next month but the combined wisdom is we will be facing further cuts of between two per cent and five per cent.
“Five per cent would be a very significant challenge. There will also be a spotlight on reserves and we will need to make sure our reserves position is well understood in terms of revenue, risks and capital costs.”
Mr Williams added that he personally thought it was “inconceivable” savings of five per cent could be made in one year.
The meeting was also told by the forces director of resources that the use of reserves had made the 2020 blueprint “affordable, achievable and possible”.
Mr Jamieson said: “There is a real hazard we could be asked to save five per cent on top of what we have already had to save here in the West Midlands.
“It would put a real spanner in the works of what we are doing with our 2020 plans because we have planned meticulously to stay within the budget.
“The 2020 plans have been predicated on the budgets that we know at the moment. It really gives us some substantial challenges and the type of dialogue we have with the public will have to be ongoing.”
West Midlands Police has faced unprecedented cuts since 2010 and has seen its budget slashed by more than £146 million.
The 2020 partnership, which was signed in March with consultancy firm Accenture UK, will help it restructure, cut costs and introduce new technology.
By 2020, the force is expected to shrink to the smallest size in its 41-year history – from 13,500 in 2010 to around 8,000 by 2020.
More details will be revealed about the plans in two weeks’ time. But, the huge changes are likely to include the introduction of body-worn cameras, hand-held devices for officers on the streets and online tracking systems that allow the public to track the progress of investigations like a parcel.