Last week the Chancellor announced a one year spending review. Governments generally like to set out their spending plans over a four year period. We have not been in this position now for just over three years which makes planning quite challenging. The COVID health and economic emergency and the Brexit deal make longer term planning quite hard.
The main headline you may have noticed was the pay freeze which will affect all staff earning more than £24K. I know how incredibly hard you have been working this year as part of the COVID emergency. I do recognise this has been a health-led emergency and how health service staff are rewarded is important. Carving out groups is difficult and divisive. A pay freeze is a pay cut in real terms and I am disappointed at this outcome for you all. Incremental progression is unaffected.
The announcement continued the commitment to the Police Uplift Programme. The force will have more than 500 additional officers by March 2021. The amount recruited next year across the country will be 6,000 not 8,000. It is still very good news and we expect the final numbers of the 20K to be recruited in 2022.
In overall terms the settlement matched what we expected so let me explain what it means.
The base budget in the force is made up of the government’s grants and the local taxation the PCC can raise via a precept.
The grant this year is increasing by an amount to allow the uplift, which we get on the condition we grow the number of officers up from the ones we have. The rest of the grant this sits on is not going to grow next year and we will be expected to make efficiency savings too, so it gets a bit smaller. Inflation means it will be worth less and there will be new pressures on it such as our national IT charges for things like PNC are going up.
The PCC can raise council tax to help with this but the levels won’t cover all the pressures so we will need to make some savings. This is exactly where we were last year. We have a plan but it will mean some parts of WMP are getting bigger and others will have some more scrutiny on costs. Do not panic. This is not a return to austerity and changes underway are there to help with this.
The real news in the spending review was the economic impact. In 2008 after the financial crisis the economy contracted around 2 per cent and that led into the period of austerity. Covid has seen a contraction of 11.3 per cent. There are going to be questions in the next few years over where public spending is going. The bigger concern for us has to be the economic impact.
Jobs, good jobs, cut crime. A growth in unemployment and poverty in deprived areas will create challenges for us and they look like they will be there in 2021. The government is very focused upon this as are our local authorities but after a tough 2020 we may see further operational challenges.
Your mood may be darkened by the region moving into Tier 3 restrictions on Wednesday.
It does delay the trip to the pub or for a meal out. Retail will open. It will however be a very different Christmas. We are looking at our operational plans over this period carefully now as it will look very different than previous years. Please keep up the great work you are doing. We are holding the public’s hand through some dark times. It is a marathon not a sprint.
OK so let’s get to some positives!
Thank you for all of those getting behind our Christmas appeal. If you have not seen this then we are making a real effort to show we care about those we serve and help those in need. We are also looking at releasing some volunteering hours for non-operational service areas over the seasonal period.
Finally. In the New Year a vaccination programme will start to free us from the worst of these restrictions and we should surface for air to the biggest party in the UK here in the West Midlands!
2021 is the year of Coventry. The City of Culture will begin in earnest on the 15th May 2021.
I believe this is the most important event we have seen in decades for the region and we get a second party the year afterwards with the Commonwealth Games! I fully recognise there is so much focus on the Games as we can imagine what it will be like and can see our role. In so many ways the City of Culture holds the most potential but we can’t quite imagine it yet. We will see something happening every day and its reach into those communities that we want to work with will be amazing. It’s an event for the whole force not just Coventry NPU.
Thanks for all the hard work.