South Yorkshire’s police commissioner will try to a broker a new deal with Home Secretary Sajid Javid to save the force from the crippling financial impact of dealing with its ‘legacy’ issues dating from mistakes made in previous eras.
Seven figure bills are still arriving with the county’s police force each year as a result of the Hillsborough disaster, now almost 30 years ago, the child sexual exploitation scandal in Rotherham and the resulting Operation Stovewood.
We will have to beat a path to his door rather a lot in the next 12 months because of legacy issues.Dr Alan Billings
Costs are so high that Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings and the South Yorkshire force have to ask the Home Secretary for grants to cover the costs, but even when successful an ‘excess’ of £2.4m applies to each claim, each year.
That means while all three sources of expenditure exist, it will cost the force more than £7m a year even if the Home Office agrees to provide the grants they request in full.
Now Dr Billings is hoping the Home Secretary – a police officer’s brother who gave a well-received speech to the Police Federation this week – will be open to negotiating a different arrangement which may leave the force with a reduced impact on its annual budget.
It is expected there will be costs of more than £20m still to find connected to Hillsborough, with Stovewood expected to cost around £14m in total. Claims from CSE victims are only starting to arrive and at this stage it remains impossible to calculate what the total settlement figure could be.
Dr Billings said: “Is there a way to roll it up in a more helpful way? That is the intellectual challenge going forwards.
“We need a Home Secretary who ‘gets it’, who understands why these pressures on South Yorkshire Police are different to everywhere else in the country.
“We are hopeful we have a Home Secretary who really does understand policing. That is what he is claiming, his brother is a chief superintendent.
“We will have to beat a path to his door rather a lot in the next 12 months because of legacy issues,” he said.
The force had a positive relationship with Theresa May during her years in the job, he said, although there had been too little time to develop an understanding with Amber Rudd before her resignation.
“The things which will make a difference to South Yorkshire Police finances are decisions which can only be taken by the Home Secretary. If we don’t get that relationship right, we are in trouble,” he said.
“It is absolutely crucial you get the politics of the relationship between the Police and Crime Commissioner, Chief Constable and Home Secretary right. That has to be as personal a relationship as you can get it.
“We have to find more than £7m. This is already a very big burden. Is there some way we can do things differently so we don’t face penalties of that magnitude?
“That is the conversation we will be having over the next few months, if there is a way to handle them so they don’t have such a big impact.”
Policing costs in South Yorkshire are already under pressure from spending cuts and that is likely to continue, but the force already has some burdens in excess of those dealt with by similar forces, such as policing five local football clubs.
Although the clubs contribute, the cost of the force is still calculated at £1.3m a year and that has the potential to increase following a recent court ruling involving Ipswich Town.