Why you’re missing 100 bobbies

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MORE than £6 million in savings was banked by South Yorkshire Police chiefs instead of being spent on extra bobbies for the county’s streets.

Nearly 100 officers could have had their wages paid with the money, but the force deposited the funds into reserves instead.

Today critics said existing officers could have been put at risk by the money-saving.

South Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Neil Bowles said: “Having fewer officers increases stress and danger to our members. Putting savings away at the cost of jobs is something else.”

But former South Yorkshire Police chief constable Med Hughes said reserves had been built up to be ‘prudent’.

And he said £12m - half the total £24m savings pot - is being put back into the spending budget for the coming year, alongside an increase in the bill charged to households through council tax precepts.

He said: “It’s a good job we were prudent over those years and saved this money. Otherwise the burden on the taxpayer due to Government cuts would have been even higher.”

The savings were amassed over the last three years, when fewer officers were employed than the force had funding for.

In 2008/9, the force received funding for 3,169 officers - but only 3,070 were employed.

The following year the force had money for 3,029 - but employed only 2,949.

And, in 2010/11, there was cash for 2,904 - but just 2,890 were on the payroll.

As a result South Yorkshire Police saved almost £8.9m in wages - of which £6.4m was paid into reserves.

Some of the rest was spent on projects including £100,000 to up security at police stations, £70,000 to review communications strategy, and £50,000 changing door entry systems.

Med Hughes added: “The Police Authority made a conscious decision to invest in improving security at stations to protect staff, and better technology to support staff.”

Bill Wilkinson, chief executive and treasurer of South Yorkshire Police Authority, said: “The Authority has followed a policy of transferring budget underspends to reserves. Some of the underspends arise from vacancies, but others are the result of efficiencies.

“It has been clear for years the financial crisis would hit public services hard - this is what is now happening.

“Strong reserves provide flexibility. It means we do not have to make emergency cuts as soon as things get tight. This Authority is in a position next year to protect frontline emergency services, despite major cuts in government funding. By also applying an increase in council tax, the Police Authority is able to protect services even more, for longer.”

South Yorkshire Police’s Temporary Chief Constable Bob Dyson agreed: “Any underspends have gone towards maintaining officer numbers and improving efficiency.

“Had those reserves not been in place we would have seen further reductions in officer numbers.”

But former Sheffield Council leader Coun Paul Scriven, who obtained the information, said: “We are now left with the ridiculous situation that, to keep the current level of bobbies, taxpayers are asked to foot a bigger bill.”

South Yorkshire Police Authority voted last Friday to increase the amount it charges via council tax. IThe average household’s bill will go up £5 a year - and over the next year 110 police officers and 22 PCSOs do not have to be axed.

But Sheffield community groups called for savings to be used to help reduce the burden on households.

Richard Marsden

by richard marsden

News Reporter

Robert Addenbrooke, charity worker, Chapeltown:

“Why not fund the police officers using money from the reserves rather than increasing the cost to households?”

Nancy Osborn, retired, from Walkley:

“It’s wrong that people are being asked to give more money. I think there should be more political debate about other ways of funding the officers.”

Cubby Allsop, artist, from Chapeltown:

“The £5 a month increase per household is going to have an impact. The police should instead use the money they have put into reserves.”

Robert Addenbrooke, charity worker, Chapeltown:

“Why not fund the police officers using money from the reserves rather than increasing the cost to households?”

Cubby Allsop, artist, from Chapeltown:

“The £5 a month increase per household is going to have an impact. The police should instead use the money they have put into reserves.”

Nancy Osborn, retired, from Walkley:

“I think it’s wrong that people are being asked to give more money. I think there should be more political debate about other ways of funding the officers.”