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Funding crisis may cripple us, say police.

Byline: Richard Warburton

Midland police authority chiefs led a lobby to Westminster yesterday amid fears that a national funding crisis could cripple frontline policing.

The service is seeking more money to plug a pounds 350 million nationwide funding shortfall which threatens to cut the numbers of bobbies on the beat.

West Midlands Police Chief Constable Paul Scott-Lee and authority chairman Diana HollAllen met MPs at the Commons to explain the increasing pressures on the region's force caused by small increases in Government funding and orders to keep council tax rises low.

Mr Scott-Lee said: 'The last thing we want is a reduction in front line policing, but the Government should be warned this is a very real prospect.'

Last year, the West Midlands Police Authority plugged the funding gap by increasing the council tax precept by pounds 8 per householder.

Coun Holl-Allen (Con Knowle) said central funding had fallen short of what the force needed in previous years, but the authority had been able to make up the difference from local council tax.

'We can't continue to do this, because the public are getting fed up with rising council tax and the Government are threatening to cap increases,' she said.

The Government insisted it was delivering on law and order despite allegations from the Association of Chief Police Officers that the police faced a funding crisis.

ACPO said the projected pounds 350 million shortfall would result from Government proposals to cap council tax rises. Staffordshire Police Authority Chairman Mike Poulter said the county force faced a significant deficit if it is capped and if the Government level of grant was fixed at a low rate.

Police authorities claim they will struggle to find extra cash to meet responsibilities such as Home Secretary David Blunkett's police reform agenda, pay inflation and new forensic, IT and technological developments.

There will also be a 12 per cent rise in the cost of pensions because of large-scale officer recruitment in the 1970s, the authorities said.

But a Home Office spokesman said: 'In a matter of weeks Ministers will announce details of the Provisional Police Funding Settlement for 2005/06 when forces will be in a better position to assess their budgets for next year.'
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 21, 2004
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