The Panel considered a report of the Police and Crime Commissioner concerning the Proposed Precept for 2017/18 and the Medium Term Financial Strategy. A copy of the report, marked “Agenda Item 8”, is filed with these minutes.
The PCC and his Chief Finance Officer in introducing the item made the following points:
· The provisional Police Grant Settlement referred to in the report had now been confirmed and it was considered to be less positive for Leicestershire than expected. The amount of ‘topslicing’ was more than predicted. Consequently more savings were required to be made by the Force;
· Despite the challenging funding position the budget was balanced and would prioritise frontline policing as had been pledged in the PCC’s manifesto;
· The intended 1.99% precept increase would enable the Force to maintain cash levels but the following years of the MTFS would be particularly challenging. It was noted that the Government might change its 2% precept increase trigger point for a referendum and the PCC would be alive to precepting for a higher rise if he was able to do so without triggering a referendum.
· It was announced that the PCC would be adding an extra 8 frontline officers with 1 allocated to each of the neighbourhood policing areas. It was noted that there was currently a Police Officer for every 599 citizens in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland whereas a decade ago it was one Officer for every 430 citizens.
Arising from discussions the following points were noted:
· It was noted that in previous years the Force had been able to bid successfully for funding for specific projects where the funding had been taken from ‘topslicing’ which had resulted in a net gain in the overall budget for Leicestershire Police. Confirmation was given that for the current year every effort was being made to again bid for additional funding for specific projects. There had thus far been two successful transformation bids relating to NICHE and other ICT projects. However, it was emphasised that the Force would not bid for all available funding as some schemes might not be appropriate for Leicestershire.
· It was explained that the “flat cash” pledge (referred to in paragraph 9 of the report) referred to statements by Government ministers in 2016 in which they submitted that whilst the Police Grant Settlement would be less for 2017/18, taking into account the ability of PCC’s to raise the Precept by 1.99% this resulted in the same level of funding overall for the Police.
· With regard to the Funding Formula Review the PCC stated that he and the Chief Constable would be meeting with the Minister on 21 February 2017 to present the case that the current funding formula was not fair to Leicestershire. After this meeting the PCC would meet with 10 MPs from the region to ask them to canvas on behalf of Leicestershire with regard to the Funding Formula. The PCC asked Panel members to help by raising the issue with MPs themselves. It was believed that the new funding formula would run from 2018/19.
· It was noted that a future financial risk was that auto-enrolment on the pension scheme could increase the amount of people in the pension scheme and therefore the amount of employer’s contributions that would have to be paid. It was confirmed that whilst the amount of Police Officers already in the pension scheme was a very high percentage, the amount of police staff currently in the pension scheme was much lower so there was the potential for many more police staff to join which would significantly affect the level of employer’s contributions.
· With regard to the possibility of significant structural changes for the OPCC (referred to in paragraph 79 of the report) and the need to fund these changes from the reserve it was noted that the Policing and Crime Bill currently going through Parliament required PCC’s to take on more responsibilities such as dealing with complaints and therefore this may require more funding.
It was moved by the Chairman and seconded by the Vice-Chairman that:-
a) The information presented in this report, including the total 2017/18 net budget requirement of £171.639m including a council tax requirement for 2017/18 of £58.089m. be noted.
b) The proposal to increase the 2017/18 Precept by 1.99% (£3.65 per annum) for police purposes to £187.2302 for a Band D property be supported.
c) The future risks, challenges, uncertainties and opportunities included in the precept proposal, together with the financial and operational mitigations and additional considerations identified be noted.
d) It be noted that any changes required, either by Government grant alterations notified through the final settlement or through amended council tax base and surplus/deficit notifications received from the collecting authorities, may be balanced either through Force Efficiency Savings or through a transfer to or from the Budget Equalisation Reserve (BER).
e. The current MTFS, the anticipated savings required and plans to identify further solutions alongside the requirements of the Police and Crime Plan be noted.
The motion was carried unanimously.