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Thames Valley Police force cuts lead to £5.3m underspend

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Police force was cut by 1.4 per cent last year, although recent figures show overall crime has fallen

DOWNSIZING and cuts in police numbers will lead to a Thames Valley force-wide underspend of £5.3m this financial year, with £16m more to be slashed from the budget next year.

A report presented to police authority this morning (Friday), shows that the force is ahead of target in achieving financial cuts.

To date, the underspend has come in at £3,660m, but the overall forecast is that this number will rise to £5,335m at the end of the financial year in April, a mammoth 1.38 per cent of the total budget.

Pay and employment costs were slashed as support staff vacancies were frozen and new overtime policies were implemented.

The officer overtime budget is expected to come in at £950,000 lower than initially predicted, with officer pay and allowances dropping £800,000, both contributing to a £2,5m saving on staffing costs.

Non-staffing costs were also hacked back, with savings on premises related expenditure (down £700,000) and supplies and services (down £900,000) making up the bulk.

The report, by the head of corporate finance at Thames Valley Police Linda Waters and TVP business partner (finance and performance) Ian Thompson, states: “The downsizing of the organisation and the drive to contain costs whilst maintaining service delivery is helping to establish savings in non-staff budgets.”

It concludes: “[THIS] demonstrates the Force's commitment and ability to deliver the productivity plan and achieve efficiency and effectiveness in all areas of service.”

A separate report, published by the Home Office yesterday (Thursday), showed that police officer numbers in the Thames Valley force fell by 64 from 4,412 to 4,349 between September 2010 and September 2011 – a cut of 1.4 per cent.

Police staff numbers were cut by 164 during the same period – staff designated as employees other than officers, police community support officers (PCSO) or traffic wardens.

But the report showed evidence of a heavier reliance on PCSOs, with numbers increasing by 1.7 per cent from 502 to 511.

Thames Valley Police were not alone in shedding a large part its force over the past year, the number of officers across all 43 English and Welsh police forces shrank by 6,012, a 4.3 per cent decrease. There are 136,261 police officers, down from 142,363 in September 2010 – fewer officers than at any time since 2002.

Only one force, Surrey police, increased officer numbers.

But despite these cuts, Thames Valley has recently reported that crime has fallen drastically in the region over the same period.

There are more tough times ahead, as TVP's budget will be rolled back by a further £16m in the next financial year, with £15.582m worth of “productivity savings and savings in non-essential areas” already earmarked.

Despite the cuts, TVP has had some success in cutting crime in the area, with official figures showing a huge fall in violent crime and car thefts, as reported on Newburytoday.co.uk earlier this week.

Crime in the Thames Valley region fell by more than 11 per cent over the past year, the second highest reduction in England.

From October 2010 to September 2011, there were 19,873 fewer crimes recorded than the previous calendar year.

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