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Bedfordshire's said "no" in a referendum over whether council tax payers should contribute more to the police.
Voters took part in the referendum at the same time as the General Election, but the results of the count in that vote, was only announced at lunchtime today (Monday 11th).
Police Commissioner Olly Martins (pictured, with Chief Constable Colete Paul), says:
"The voters of Bedfordshire have given a clear and emphatic verdict. They are not prepared to pay a significant percentage increase in the police precept.
But the underlying problem has not gone away. The budget of Bedfordshire Police will now be £1.28m less in the current financial year than it was last year, and the cumulative impact of anticipated government funding cuts is currently projected to lead to a £6m funding shortfall.
This will result in a recruitment freeze in the next 18-24 months and a reduction of up to 135 police officers, or 12% of our current strength.
Bedfordshire Police faces serious urban challenges but is funded as though it is a small rural force. As a result it has the worst financial position of any police force in the UK.
HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, who are charged by Parliament with making independent assessments of police forces, have said of our predicament: 'Bedfordshire Police faces a particular challenge because of the scale of financial savings that must be made. There are limited opportunities for it to reduce costs because:
- It is a low-cost force: it spends less on policing and its officers’ costs are lower than other forces
- It is a small force with low financial reserves
- It has a challenging crime mix and faces an unusually high level of serious threats and criminality for a force of its size
HMIC have also said:
'Hardworking frontline police officers and staff are doing their best to keep the public safe but they are very overstretched'.
Mr Martins added:
"Consequently, due to the lack of properly resourced neighbourhood policing teams, Bedfordshire Police is potentially a weak link in the fight against terrorism and organised crime. The Force does not have the same levels of police officers as other forces. This directly impacts on its ability to gather information against and tackle terrorists and criminals and to come to the aid of the public when needed.
75 of the 100 extra officers that a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum would have funded were to be deployed to provide the community policing footprint across the county that we currently lack. This form of neighbourhood policing, providing the force with intelligence gathering ‘eyes and ears’ in every community, is the first line of defence against terrorism and organised crime.
The lack of this first line of defence in Bedfordshire is an issue not just for this police force but for the whole country. Terrorists and criminals do not respect county borders.
Over the next few months Bedfordshire Police will introduce a new operating model designed to make the best possible use of our diminishing resources to deliver a more community based focus to keeping the county safe. However, the risks we face and the lack of resources mean the job we have to do is like trying to cover a double bed with a single duvet, and something will always be left not being satisfactorily covered.
I am determined to get the very best out of Bedfordshire Police to ensure the force protects people and fights crime as effectively as possible. However there is only so much the force can do with so few officers. Ground-breaking changes are being made in Bedfordshire to deal with terrorism, cyber-crime, gangs, the abuse of children and those other crimes that have the most impact on people’s lives.
But this force has never been fairly funded and with more cuts in policing ahead of us the referendum provided an opportunity to put that right and give Bedfordshire the number of officers that other forces have. The Chief Constable and I will continue to be innovative in driving change and improvements to make Bedfordshire Police the best it can be but only so much can be done with the current funding the force receives.
It is therefore now incumbent upon the government to take notice of our unique circumstances in Bedfordshire and to ensure that this police force has the resources it needs not just to keep this county safe but to play its proper role in keeping the country safe. To this end I will be seeking an urgent opportunity for the Chief Constable and I to meet with the Home Secretary to press our case."
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