The primary responsibility of your local Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner is to ensure that government funding and local council tax precepts are spent well. For me this means that the budget must be focussed on reducing crime and keeping people safe as set out in the Local Police and Fire & Rescue Plans drawn up in consultation with Staffordshire residents.
In Staffordshire the total budget across the two services is over £250 million. A lot of taxpayers money that does a lot of good. If elected I will aim to ensure as much of this as possible is used to support the frontline Police and Fire effort.
What do I mean by ‘frontline’? I mean everything and every individual engaged with our core purpose, to protect people and property. This includes the officers and firefighters directly engaged in the field, the support teams of investigators and specialists and the equipment and training they need. It includes the services that are commissioned to prevent crime, fires and accidents and the projects and partnerships that prevent re-offending and provide support to victims.
This also means sufficient funding for communications so that concerns reported by residents and businesses are dealt with effectively and that people get clear information on how well their taxes are being used and can feel confident that they are being kept safe. I am also aware that every Police or Fire & Rescue administration, maintenance, support and back-office team are major contributors to the effectiveness of frontline delivery.
If this sounds like most of the organisation then that is because it is. If elected I will be looking for efficiencies and better value for money right across the services, in every department. I will be looking for ways to use technology and improved operating practices to increase the time available to spend on frontline delivery. Sometimes this will mean making savings and sometimes investing more in order to create more capacity or to reduce demand.
I will certainly be looking for more opportunities to share resources between the Police and Fire & Rescue services, building on the success of the recently combined bases at Tamworth and Hanley. Sharing modern, low cost buildings within easy reach of our major networks not only saves money but provides a much more effective working environment.
And where we can collaborate with neighbouring forces, other blue light services, local councils and health authorities to benefit Staffordshire residents and employers then I will be keen to look at this too.
My approach won’t be an old fashioned cost cutting exercise but a continual process of exploring and considering every opportunity to remove duplication and to manage these public assets and resources, freeing up funds to Keep Staffordshire Safe. We will look for examples of best practice elsewhere and copy with pride but I expect most of the ideas and plans will come from within the existing workforce, they usually do.
As a Conservative I am ever conscious of how much people are asked to pay for their public services. Reviewing the annual council tax precept would for me always be a case of balancing what Police and Fire & Rescue need to maintain and improve services with what residents can afford. I will always consult residents before making any increase but of course I won’t be able to do so without your support at the forthcoming election.
Have a look at this chart detailing the increase in the police element of local council tax since PCCs set them. Staffordshire has the second lowest increase and West Midlands the second highest. Clearly who you vote for matters.