The cutWe have rated this cut as deep
Police authorities across England and Wales have spent the last few days number crunching after receiving their grant settlements from the Home Office for the next two years.

In the spending review, the Chancellor announced that spending on the police would be cut by up to 20 per cent by 2014-15.

This week, the Home Office told individual police authorities what they would be receiving from the Government  from 2011-13.

The background

Earlier this month, CutsCheck reported that police forces that were heavily dependent on grants from the Government, rather than council tax, for their funding were likely to be hit hardest.

The three areas that are most reliant on money from Whitehall are the big-city forces of the West Midlands, Merseyside and Greater Manchester.

All of them had been expecting big cuts. Were they worse than expected?

The analysis
The cuts for individual forces will be front loaded: they will be heavier in 2011-13 than 2013-15.

This means ‘steady as she goes’ reductions are out of the question and the bulk of the cuts will have to be made earlier than expected.

The West Midlands receives 86 per cent of its funding from government, more than any other police authority in the country.

Before this week’s announcement, it had been expecting cuts of 20 per cent, amounting to £123m over the next four years.

Accordingly, plans had been drawn up for 2,200 job losses – 6 per cent of the workforce – including 1,000 police officers.

West Midlands Police Authority has now been told it will receive £514m in 2011-12 and £480m in 2012-13.

Derek Webley, chairman of the authority, said: “Almost 90 per cent of funding for West Midlands Police comes from central Government grant and therefore this reduction will hit us much harder than those forces for which the local council tax precept raises a greater proportion of their funding.”

Mr Webley said the money the West Midlands would receive next year was ” broadly in line with what we were expecting”, but this with coupled with “significant – and unexpected – further cuts in the following year”.

The authority had been budgeting for £33m of cuts in 2012-13, but will now have to find another £5m of reductions.

It has already taken drastic action, agreeing today (16 December) to implement a regulation forcing all officers with more than 30 years’ service to retire.

This is the first time the authority has ever done this and could mean an officer retiring at 48 on a full pension.
Three other police authorities – Surrey, Devon and Cornwall and North Yorkshire – have gone down a similar route.

Merseyside is dependent on central government for 82 per cent of its funding.  It will receive £281m from the Government next year and £263m in 2012-13.

Since October, its financial forecasts have varied widely – based on different assumptions about how much it was likely to receive from the Government.

Before October’s spending review, it had been planning for £73m of cuts over the next four years Afterwards, this fell to £53m.

It has risen again, to £66m, following this week’s announcement from the Home Office – “a huge blow to policing on Merseyside”, according to police authority chairman  Bill Weightman, who is worried frontline services will be affected.

Of the £66m cuts, two thirds will be lost in the next two years and the rest in 2013-15. The authority has already approved cuts of £13m, leading to the loss by natural wastage of 200 police officers and 80 police staff by March 2011.

A report that went before the police authority today (16 December) said it faced “an unprecedented challenge both in financial and operational terms”, while the Government’s plans to make the deepest cuts in the first two years “only serve to increase this challenge”.

Greater Manchester receives 81 per cent of its funding from Whitehall and will be given £486m from the Government next year and £454m the following year.

Before this week, it was planning savings of £134m (two thirds of which will will have to be made in 2011-13) and predicting a 23 per cent fall in staff. This will mean the loss of 3,000 posts, including frontline police officers.

The authority will be receiving less than it expected and will have to look again at its plans for cuts of £50m next year and more than £30m in 2012-13.

The verdict
The three big-city police authorities CutsCheck has looked at were expecting big cuts before the Home Office announced their individual settlements.

Fears that authorities largely dependent on money from the Government would be hit hardest have been realised. But the cuts are worse than forecast and will be deeper in the first two years than in 2013-15.

Even more hard work from the treasurers of Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester will be needed before they are able to balance their books.