Crime Commissioner's concern over how Boris will finance his 20,000 extra cops

South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has questioned how the Government will finance the 20,000 new officers announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, with a warning that Counci Tax payers in the county cannot afford inflation-busting increases in their future contributions.

Dr Alan Billings
Dr Alan Billings

Dr Alan Billings has welcomed the announcement, which will see the new officers recruited over the next three years with an expectation from Whitehall that the recruitment process will begin within weeks.

He believes more officers will help the fight against crime and the announcement comes as the South Yorkshire force has already found money to increase its officer numbers by almost 10 per cent in the next few years.

He said: “For some time Police and Crime Commissioners have been warning of the dangers in cutting police numbers and urging the government to increase them.

“I believe there is a link between numbers of officers and the force’s ability to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour. I therefore welcome the clear pledge of the new government to increase numbers by 20,000 nationally. I look forward to hearing from them how many that equates to for South Yorkshire.

“In fact, we have already been increasing numbers in South Yorkshire anyway. This year I have used council tax to add an additional 63 posts. And between now and 2024 we were planning to increase overall numbers by 220.

“There are some unanswered questions, however.

“Increasing at this pace over three years will represent a challenge for recruitment, especially as from next year police officers will be required either to have a degree or to work for a professional degree on the job.

“It is also not clear where the money is coming from. The government may support with grant or may put the burden of paying onto council tax payers or withhold part of the annual grant (top slice) for this purpose.

“I have said that I do not think South Yorkshire council tax payers can be asked to pay for above inflation increases. In other words, this is only good news if it is fully funded by the government – and that means salaries, the cost of training, uniforms and equipment.

“There is also an opportunity here for many younger people in South Yorkshire to have a good career in policing and to take advantage of the new apprenticeship route into the profession, working for a degree while on the job – ‘earn as you learn’.”

Dr Billings increased the current year’s policing ‘precept’ – money paid as part of Council Tax – by 14 per cent to help pay for improvements including more police officers.

But he made it clear that was a difficult decision to make and that the county’s residents cannot afford to shoulder similar rises in future.