New cops for Bedfordshire - that’s 60 new jobs plus replacing those expected to leave this year

Police
Police

The thin blue line could be a fraction thicker in Bedfordshire after the county’s police and crime panel backed funding plans for 60 extra police officers from April.

The force is also planning to replace the 100 cops expected to leave this year.

The intention is to recruit a further 120 PCs in 2020/21, which is 20 more than initially promised, and for between 100 and 120 for 2021-22. These figures also include replacing an expected churn in the workforce.

The move will add £24 to a Band D council tax bill for the 2019/20 financial year.

A plea by Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway for special funding for the county force resulted in extra finance being made available.

In a tweet, she said: “Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Panel approved a £2 per month rise in the police precept part of council tax and I’m using it to deliver 160 new PCs this financial year.

“And more than first promised now that we’ve finalised the budget with 120, not 100, in the following year, as well as  100 to 120 the year after next.”

The PCC told the panel the county force needed “a demonstrable increase in the frontline and in particular community policing”.

She said: “We are doubling the number of officers coming into the community hubs and creating a troubleshooting team, a neighbourhood intervention team of a sergeant and nine PCs, to deal with pernicious problems as they arise.

“Instead of the situation in Dunstable, last year, where we had an enormous overtime expense to deal with low level drug dealing issues which were causing a misery for some residents, that we would have a permanent team available to flex into areas as problems occur, to snuff them out at source.

“We have the community hub teams. They are problem solving too, but given the volume of work they do it seemed important that we have a special intervention team as well.

“Every single member of this panel has called for greater visibility of policing and more policing in communities.

“They have to be paid for somehow,” she explained. “They can’t be paid for with Pixie dust.

“I am significantly more comfortable with council tax payers locally paying for a visible improvement in local and community policing.

“I would actually like to see that ring-fenced as we move forward.”

Chief finance officer with the county police force Phil Wells explained to the panel the need to take into account criminality, such as cyber crime, which crosses county boundaries.

“While the PCC can’t ring fence all the money going into local policing, because you have borderless criminality which you have to invest in, a large chunk of those 60 (extra) officers are going back into visible local policing.”

Panel chairman Paul Cain tweeted: “Good meeting with heartfelt comments and concerns over council tax burden.

“But PCCs have nowhere else to go. First time Beds Police have got an uplift they desperately need.

“Still a long battle ahead to get the funding we require, just to get on par with other like forces.

“The 60 more is a start, but over 300 required. This cannot continue to come from precept.”

He told the panel: “Whatever we feel about it, this is the only way the government has given commissioners of raising money.

“The money comes out of the tax payer’s pocket at the end of the day, whether it’s through income tax or however they do it,” he said.

“Every panel I have seen has gone for the £24, with one exception. Cambridgeshire went for £23.96 for some obscure reason.

“There is  alot of reluctance because we know where it’s coming from. That’s our own constiuents’ pockets. Nobody wants that to happen.

“But if we don’t do this, what are we going to do?” he asked.

“We can’t go on moaning about funding to Bedfordshire Police if the one opportunity we have we pass by.

“I will remind the panel that in 2015 we gave the then PCC Olly Martins the go ahead for a 15 per cent increase and a referendum which cost us dear.

“I think many of us with hindsight would have queried that further had we understood the huge restrictions on a referendum and how biased it was.

“But the panel did back him for 15 per cent,” he added. “That’s how much we knew we had a problem in Bedfordshire at that time.

“This panel has got the right to veto this precept tonight.

“It can’t carry that out because the rules are that two thirds of the panel have to veto it. Two thirds of the panel are not here.

“So all we can do is have a straightforward vote whether we recommend the budget or not. Quite frankly it will go through anyway.”

The panel voted five in favour with none against, and one abstention, to support the police precept.