Police reserves as share of overall funding almost halved in seven years
PUBLISHED: 07:30 11 November 2018 | UPDATED: 09:06 11 November 2018
Suffolk's police and crime commissioner (PCC) says he is undaunted by the constabulary's budget reserves falling to almost half their level in 2011.
The force’s total resource reserve, including money set aside for earmarked spending and emergencies, was the second lowest in the country as of March.
Since 2011, the total has fallen from £14.5million to £7.8m – a 45.9% fall in reserves as a percentage of overall funding.
While the general reserve, held to manage unplanned or unforeseen events, has fallen £500,000 to £3.5m, earmarked reserves, held for future use for a specific purpose, has fallen £6.2m to £4.3m.
The overall figure is less than half that of Suffolk’s nearest neighbours Essex (£20m) and Norfolk (£18.3), and in stark contrast to the £204m held in reserve by the Met.
Only four other forces have smaller amounts of resource reserves as a percentage of funding.
Tim Passmore, first elected PCC in November 2012, said he would prefer reserves to be at their current level than to sit on large amounts of idle public money.
“The general reserve was £3.5m at the end of March,” said Mr Passmore.
“That’s just about the lowest level recommended by the audit committee and external auditors in case of emergency – for example, a major investigation like the search for [missing airman] Corrie McKeague.
“It’s among the lowest amounts in the country – and it’s important for people to understand we need that money in case of an emergency. Who would have predicted what happened in Wiltshire [Salisbury nerve agent poisonings]?
“I’m quite comfortable with it being down at that level, but I wouldn’t want to see it go any lower. We can’t afford to be caught with our trousers down, but I don’t think we need to keep vast sums of money there, doing nothing.
“We’ve used our earmarked reserves sensibly for one-off items like automatic number plate recognition technology, upgrading our IT and mobile working – never to subsidise year-to-year expenditure.
“It’s all part of the budget setting process. Each year, the reserves might need to be rebuilt if they’ve been dipped into, but doing that through council tax is a last resort.”