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Police Commissioner warns West Yorkshire force’s budget is ‘unsustainable’

WEST Yorkshire Police’s cash reserves will be empty in five years’ time if the Government does not invest additional money in the force, the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner has warned.

Ahead of a meeting with West Yorkshire’s MPs today, Mark Burns-Williamson has appealed to the MPs to back his calls ahead of the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget on November 22.

Mr Burns-Williamson has asked MPs to lobby the Government to increase funding in the police, and said the ongoing budget cuts have become “unsustainable”.

The West Yorkshire force’s reserves stand at £95 million and Mr Burns-Williamson said this could all be spent by 2022.

Earlier this month, Home Secretary Amber Rudd told the Police and Crime Commissioners’ annual conference to “stop asking the Government for more money” when crime increases, and that efficiency savings can still be made.

Funding for the police comes from central Government and a precept in Council Tax, and Mr Burns-Williamson warned if the Government does not invest more money, he might have to increase the precept, which would lead to higher Council Tax bills.

He said: “The price we will pay for an under-resourced police service in West Yorkshire is too high.

“The police’s ability to combat crime and properly protect the public here in West Yorkshire is under strain and the cost to our communities is being seen in a rise in response times, an increase in crime and a decrease in confidence levels.

“Since 2010, we have had a budget cut of £140m and the loss of 2,000 police officers and staff with police numbers at the lowest level for many years.

“The pressure this has put the police under as forces like ours try to protect frontline policing and find efficiencies elsewhere is significant and, in today’s context, unsustainable.

“Our communities need more resources, not less and I am urging MPs to join me in making the case for a fairer funding deal for West Yorkshire in the form of a new police settlement.

“Further additional savings will be hard to achieve and with reserves forming part of the force’s legal obligation to hold contingency monies, I have used some £11m this year alone to fund frontline policing.

“By 2022 most of West Yorkshire’s reserves will have been spent or committed to existing obligations such as capital build programmes and further technology investment.”

MPs in the district said they would support Mr Burns-Williamson’s call.

Bradford South Labour MP Judith Cummins said: “I think it’s so important the police get more funding because they need to be able to do their job properly.

“There needs to be another look at funding, especially neighbourhood policing, which is the cornerstone of every society and what the public expect.

“The police needs enough resources to do their job properly and without the money may not be able to do an effective enough job of protecting the community.”

Naz Shah, the Labour MP for Bradford West, said: “It is paramount given where we are at the moment with recent events around security, especially in Bradford where policing is so complex.

“The Government is failing police forces and needs to be protecting them. I had a call just this morning from my Superintendent about the challenges he faces.”

Shipley Conservative MP Philip Davies said: “I always voted against cuts in the coalition years and my view has not changed at all.

“We need more resources and police officers in Shipley.

“I always raise the issue with the Government and have done in the Commons a few times recently. I constantly question the Home Secretary on it.”

Keighley Labour MP John Grogan said a recent rise in the precept in Keighley has already made a difference to crime-fighting.

He said: “It is a very timely call. We are already seeing a difference in Keighley from the extra numbers, and if the Government accepts the Commissioner’s plea it could go a long way to helping fight crime in the district.”

Bradford East Labour MP Imran Hussain was contacted for a comment.

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