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Government warned it is facing ‘tipping point’ in police funding

Avon and Somerset Police warned further budget cuts would lead to “extremely serious consequences”.

A police and crime commissioner and a chief constable have warned the Government they are facing a “tipping point” in funding.

Sue Mountstevens, police and crime commissioner for Avon and Somerset, and the force’s chief constable Andy Marsh have said that further cuts to budgets would lead to “extremely serious consequences”.

Last week the pair wrote to Nick Hurd, the police and fire minister, sending him a copy of a report they had written about the difficulties they face in Avon and Somerset.

Avon and Somerset police and crime commissioner Sue Mountstevens (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Since the Government’s first comprehensive spending review in 2010, the force said it had made savings of £65 million and had 655 fewer police officers. And by 2021/22 Avon and Somerset is also having to find another £17 million in savings.

The force warned that the demand upon diminishing police resources was increasing and growing in complexity – from the threats of terrorism, organised crime and exploitation and abuse.

Last year over 50,000 police hours were spent on dealing with mental health and missing people inquires.

Mr Marsh said: “The challenging and tragic incidents of the last two weeks are a tangible demonstration of the stretch we are facing. Our staff have risen to the challenge to keep people safe, reassured and comforted with humanity, empathy and professionalism in very difficult circumstances.

“But our continuing ability to safeguard communities, protect the vulnerable, and manage major incidents of this kind is being severely tested. It’s simply not sustainable.

Police warned the demand upon diminishing police resources was increasing (Joe Giddens/PA)

“The human impact is very concerning. The prevalence of police officer and staff absence linked to mental health is increasing, annual pay awards have been capped for many years and the cumulative effect of this and restrained pay is having an impact on recruitment in forces up and down the country.

“In times of rising costs, increased pressure and minimal pay increases, vocation is no longer always enough.

“We’ve reached a tipping point. There are serious choices to be made and we don’t believe we can or should make those alone.

“We believe the time has come for others to share the risk, and budget decisions and future choices about funding should be made in the full knowledge of what they are.”

Ms Mountstevens added: “We have reached the point where enough is enough and policing in Avon and Somerset cannot be stretched any further.

“With yet another terror attack on the country’s capital, the reverberations felt locally continue to test all those responsible for ensuring the continued safety of our local communities.

“When the Government say there is ‘extra policing on the ground’ this does not mean we are magically given additional officers to increase our numbers.

“I’m supportive of the recent announcement of a rise in public sector pay. However, without the Government providing any additional finance this causes even more significant strain to our stretched budget.

“We estimate this will cost approximately £1.1 million and without better real-terms funding protection from the Government, this is more money we have to find. It’s important that the Government know what we face locally and understand the consequences of our current situation and the implications on the service we are able to deliver as a result.”

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