On my watch, Cumbria Police are now among the top 11 Forces in the country being graded Good with Outstanding Features by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS). This is a significant recognition by HM Inspectors and gives assurance that our residents are receiving a good service to keep them and their families safe.
Officer numbers were 1120 in 2016 when I came into post. We have steadily improved this by 25 in 2018, 20 in 2019, 47 in 2020 and currently recruiting a further 51, the latter two increases being part of Boris’ pledge 20,000new officers.
Our establishment total has increased by 143 from 1120 in 2016 to 1,263 today with at least another 50 to come which is more officers than Cumbria Police has ever had. This has allowed us to start putting officers back into our smaller towns to cover rural areas where we’ve just not had the resource for many years - Wigton, Brampton, Appleby, Dalton, Windermere, Ambleside, Keswick, Shap, Millom now have officers based in the towns to cover them and their local areas.
This is a programme I want to see increase further, this work is not yet complete, and the officers we recruit in phase 3 of the Uplift programme will allow us to do even more.
MANAGING THE BUDGET
Policing doesn’t come cheap, here in Cumbria in round terms it costs in the order of £130M and a significant portion of this is made up of Police Precept on the local Council Tax. You, as residents, therefore pay for this service and it is absolutely right that you should expect it to be well spent and managed.
We have managed in increasingly challenging times to both increased officer numbers and to balance the budget but this has inevitably meant an increase in Police precept. Whilst I have had no alternative but to impose higher precept, I have been determined that you needed to see an improved service for your money, hence the increased officer numbers.
Last year I increased the precept below the recommended amount of £10 and this year the allowed limit by government (effectively a recognition of the need and a recommendation) is £15 per Band D property. I am intending to seek an increase of £6.57 as I simply do not believe it right that we pass on another large rise under the current Covid crisis and the implications on the finances of our residents - we certainly need the additional money but I believe the Chief Constable and I must find other ways of resolving this, my Labour counterparts are all planning to pass the charges onto the council tax in full.
FUNDING FOR VITAL SERVICES
Part of my role is to manage the Police Property Act Fund. The fund accumulates as a result of the disposal of property coming into the possession of the police under the Police Property Act 1987 and the Powers of the Criminal Courts Act 1973. Community groups and individuals can submit applications for funding on a quarterly basis. Between that and the Covid Recovery Fund from my own budget I have allocated over £300,000 to vital services and good causes over my term.
CRIME IS DOWN
There is no doubt that the more officers we have, the more crime we are likely to solve, more importantly the more crime we can prevent. Overall crime is down some 7% but there is no place for complacency, we have had significant successes against drug dealers but that is a never ending battle so long as people take drugs. Driving under the influence of drugs is increasingly worrying as younger generations see the use of recreational drugs as normal, some crime types are up and as long as we have people we will have crime, but the trajectory is heading in the right direction and linked to all of the above that’s where we need to keep heading.
Cumbria remains one of the safest places to live and work in the country and I intend to keep it that way.
CONTACT WITH POLICE - 101 AND 999
Average waiting time for 101 is around just 4 minutes, while 999 response is under 10 seconds There is a balance to be struck - more staff answering phones means fewer police responding, that’s why we have shifted much of the contact online. We continue to improve our online services through constant feedback.
Cumbria Police are heading in the right direction, it has been a privilege to serve as PCC but the job is not done yet - we can not take our foot off the pedal now. I want us to continue working together so that you see more of our cops while we keep the council tax as low as possible.
Peter McCall, Cumbria Police and Crime Commissioner