The gap between income and expenditure for the county’s police force is in danger of widening like “crocodile jaws” unless tough decisions were made.
That was the stark truth about the police’s finances, said the county’s elected police commissioner Sir Clive Loader, after a meeting in Market Harborough on Monday night.
Sir Clive said: “Of course people don’t like austerity, but these days austerity is the norm in the public sector.
“And we just cannot spend beyond our means.”
Sir Clive was speaking to the Mail after the meeting at Harborough’s Robert Smyth School, held to explain some of the sweeping changes to policing on their way for the Harborough district.
The changes for Harborough include losing the district’s inspector and using emergency 999 teams based at Keyham Lane in Leicester.
“The funding settlement for next year is arguably the toughest we have faced and there is no sign that future budgets are going to get any easier,” Sir Clive has said.
“The force continues to face considerable service pressures and increasing demands that arise out of new areas of criminality and vulnerability.”
Leicestershire’s Chief Constable Simon Cole told the Harborough audience that more than £30m had been taken out of the police budget in the past few years, and there were 700 fewer employees.
But there was some good news. He said: “As the population has grown, recorded crime has dropped.
“There has been quite a significant reduction in crime over the last ten years.”
Turning specifically to Harborough, he said that while the big, new eastern area, which includes Harborough, Melton and Rutland, accounted for half of the force’s total patch, it was responsible for only 11 per cent of the demand on police time.
And he said while 999 teams would start their shift in Leicester, he does not expect “any officer to be sat in the police station waiting for a call”.
Harborough would still be sent the nearest police team to deal with emergencies, which is exactly what happens now, he explained.
Harborough district councillor Bill Liqourish told the audience of about 30 people: “I’ve got every confidence that these changes will work.”
After the meeting, Sir Clive confirmed that he will be asking for more money from the public to pay for policing.
He said a proposed increase of 1.99 per cent will cost the average household £3.51 a year, but generate an additional £1.038million.