Corrie search and court loss send forecast police overspend to £1.9million

Suffolk Constabulary headquarters in Martlesham Heath. Picture: SU ANDERSON

Suffolk Constabulary headquarters in Martlesham Heath. Picture: SU ANDERSON

An appeal court defeat and the search for missing airman Corrie McKeague have contributed to the more than twofold increase of Suffolk Constabulary’s predicted overspend for 2017/2018.

With three months of the financial year remaining, police are preparing for an almost £2million budget deficit unless the government steps in.

Eight weeks ago, when the police and crime commissioner’s accountability and performance panel last met, the forecasted overspend totalled £800,000.

On Friday, chief finance officer Chris Bland presented the same panel with the financial position at the end of October.

He said a number of factors had contributed to the latest £1.9m overspend calculation, including the ongoing search for Mr McKeague and Ipswich Town’s successful appeal over payment for policing outside its stadium.

The force awaits confirmation of leave to appeal the decision, which overturned a High Court ruling that it had been entitled to charge the club for special services, and has contributed £280,000 to the forecast overspend.

Meanwhile, police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore wants the Home Office to provide financial support for the £1.5m search for Mr McKeague – code-named Operation Phonetic.

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He has also lobbied for a fairer deal when the Home Office allocates budgets this month.

Mr Passmore told the panel: “Bearing in mind the government helped Wiltshire police with the Ted Heath inquiry and gave the Met money to extend the search for Madeleine McCann, I think it would be quite outrageous for them to not do the same for us.”

A £1.9m overspend would have to be offset by digging into budget reserves, which fell from £17.5m in 2012 to £6.7m in March this year.

Last year’s government decision to protect direct resource funding at ‘flat cash levels’ compared to the previous year – a real terms cut, against increased demand – meant recurring £1.7m savings were required to help fund nationally agreed pay awards.

Mr Bland explained other contributing factors included spending on overtime, which last year amounted to £2.8m.

Assistant chief constable Rachel Kearton said work was underway to control overtime levels, while chief constable Gareth Wilson said there was good overtime management but issues had arisen with changing demand, including an increase in 999 calls.