Extra £25 million raided to safeguard police jobs

Malvern Gazette: Police and crime commissioner Bill Longmore with deputy Barrie Sheldon Police and crime commissioner Bill Longmore with deputy Barrie Sheldon

DESPERATE police chiefs are going to raid a pot of cash stashed away for emergencies - taking out an extra £25 million to avoid cutting front line jobs.

Deputy police and crime commissioner Barrie Sheldon has revealed he is going to dip into a reserve kitty to avoid making any more bobbies redundant.

West Mercia Police's reserves pot stands at an eye-watering £49 million, and has remained untouched while major cuts were made to the budget.

But Mr Sheldon says with another £22 million needing to be slashed off spending by 2019, due to further predicted falls in Government funding, he is going to raid it by virtually 50 per cent.

The cash grab will safeguard every single PC and police community support officer (PCSO) job until at least March 2017.

Mr Sheldon, speaking during a Q&A with politicians at Worcester City Council last night, said: "We have a huge £49 million reserve and need to start ploughing some of that back into communities, it can't just sit there.

"We're going to plough £25 million of that back into the budget to keep the frontline safe, so under Bill's tenure (Bill Longmore, police and crime commissioner) we have the same number of police officers and PCSOs.

"We are very clear that we want it to stay the same."

The tactic is one of the boldest moves the duo have made since being elected in 2012.

Mr Sheldon, speaking during a scrutiny committee meeting, said the decision came about because of concern over the "further cuts" in funding.

The force is already halfway through a plan to cut £20 million from spending between 2012 and 2016.

That included the loss of 140 police officer jobs, which have now all gone, and 315 back office roles.

Three weeks ago Mr Longmore revealed another £21.8 million is likely to be needed from 2016 to 2019.

Councillor Derek Prodger said: "Why can't you use some of that reserve money to employ more police officers on the streets, that's what people want to see."

Mr Sheldon said the problem with recruiting more was that the reserve funds are a "one off", while new PCs could expect to be paid for "30 years", making it unlikely.

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