Reassurances over front line police

FRONT line officers will not be axed as part of moves by Suffolk police to fill a £6 million pound budget black hole, it emerged today.The assurance, which came at a meeting of Suffolk Police Authority held at the force's Martlesham headquarters today, comes at a time when the police are being put under enormous pressure to balance the books while maintaining services.

FRONT line officers will not be axed as part of moves by Suffolk police to fill a £6 million pound budget black hole, it emerged today.

The assurance, which came at a meeting of Suffolk Police Authority held at the force's Martlesham headquarters today, comes at a time when the police are being put under enormous pressure to balance the books while maintaining services.

While under the threat of having excessive council tax increases capped by government, Suffolk police is also being told to find savings amounting to around three per cent of the budget for the next three years.

This demands the police reduce its budget by £1.5 million for next year, £3 million for the year after and £4.5 million by 2007/8.


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With pensions and police officer pay accounting for around 80 per cent of the current budget, the financial pressure is set to be focused on civilian posts and police equipment. However, no announcement has been made about the full impact in these areas at this stage.

Christine Laverock, chairwoman of Suffolk Police Authority, described the government demands being placed on the police as "unmanageable" and said talks need to be carried out to address the problem.

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She said: "I feel we are in a really difficult situation because the funding we are expecting to be given from the government is unlikely to be enough.

"What we are having to do is look at a strategy for the next three years to smooth some of the peaks in our expenditure. This includes using £1.2 million from our reserves to mitigate the increased cost of pensions."

Although "every line of the budget" is being scrutinised, it would not be worthwhile for the police to cut officers from its payroll. Government funding has secured 95 extra officers in the past three years, but any reduction in this level would see the money withdrawn.

However, the possibility of switching officers to "desk jobs" has not been ruled out.

This comes at a time when a review is already under way to see if vacancies currently being created need to be filled.

Mrs Laverock said Suffolk police could be branded as a "failing authority" unless they make the savings set down by the Home Office, even if the force maintains its position as the safest in England.

She added: "Council tax increases of between three and 15 per cent are being considered, although the threat of government capping means this is most likely to be in the low single figures.

"I feel our hands are tied by the fact that three police authorities were capped last year and that is something that we have to be aware of. In the past we have been able to raise the local council tax precept to meet any shortfalls but we won't be able to do that now. That's why we are having to review our whole budget and smooth any peaks in it."

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