Full eve of poll statements of PCC candidates


Alex Coley – Independent

Over the past six weeks Surrey has been my treadmill, six weeks of walking and talking to residents all over this county. The number one question from residents has been: “how are you going to pay for more police?”

One resident, a retired police officer, was about to put my leaflet in the recycling bin when he asked me that very question. I told him that the Surrey Police & Crime Commissioner is loaning £43m to Surrey County Council. I told him the PCC underspent by £8.7m last year and is on course to underspend £3m this year, because of vacancies and projects falling behind. The leaflet did not go in the bin. That retired officer was horrified to hear how much money is available but not being used. I want to put that money to work, it’s the reason I am standing for Police & Crime Commissioner.

I don’t think residents want a PCC acting like an investment bank that dabbles in the gilt markets, backed by your council tax. Do you really want casino politics in policing? Surrey County Council has £0.6bn of debt which it expects to increase by a further £1.2bn. Let’s just hope they don’t go bust like so many councils have and take tens of millions of pounds of police funding down with them. It’s public money, your money, that you pay for your police service, which is desperately stretched. I want to use that money for policing, but I need to get elected first.

Is it any wonder a third of police officers have left since April 2020 and a fifth say they want to leave. Surrey Police has an establishment figure of 2,263 police officers, with 1,000 of them new recruits. This means almost half of our police officers are probationers looking for leadership. Let’s not gamble with their future.

The PCC boasts of bringing in £10m of funding to Surrey Police. Last year the Audit & Governance Committee at Surrey County Council showed a movement of £10m from Surrey Police into SCC’s treasury management.

In response to a written question from me the Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner advised: At the Surrey Police triennial review for civil staff pensions, as at 31st March 2022 the actuary determined historic deficits to be:
2023/24 – £1.612m
2024/25 – £1.671m
2025/26 – £1.733m
The actuary also determined that paying off this historic pension deficit would benefit from a discount amounting to £224k, equivalent to 7 new police officers.

Kate Chinn – Labour

Of course the budget needs scrutiny and increasing  but as Alex Coley identifies it is ensuring enough officers are  recruited and retained that is the real priority. Only then can the money be spent so projects and initiatives are delivered. If Surrey Police can’t do that it doesn’t matter how much money there is in the pot. 

I would increase  police recruitment by: simplifying the recruitment process, providing more resources for vetting and putting support in place so keen candidates who fail  can reapply and succeed. 

I would ensure retention by, providing adequate supervision and mentoring for officers. Ensure resources were in place to protect their mental well-being and mental health professionals are available to suppors officers to process any traumatic events they encounter in the challenging role of policing. All staff must  be supported in their  career development and enabled to develop pathways into specialist areas with the training needed to succeed. Senior staff must have incentives to encourage retention, 

For a government to retain dedicated hard working officers, motivate new recruits and slow the increasing falls in officer it must value policing with actions not words. 

A Labour government would ensure police pay recognises the value of the work our officers do and commit to long term investment. They would value  the police for the work they do everyday to protect our communities’. 

If elected I would be a Labour PCC in a Labour government giving Surrey police the respect they deserve.

Paul Kennedy Liberal Democrat

The challenge of funding more community policing requires professional discipline, not simplistic solutions. As a former barrister, I’m best placed to address the criminal and public law challenges of the PCC role. And to boost Surrey Police’s performance and morale, after 10 years overseeing public interest bodies.

I’m also a former accountant and actuary. I’ve chaired my local council’s audit committee; and for 3 years I’ve served on Surrey police and crime panel’s finance committee which scrutinises the PCC’s budget.

Surrey Police’s budget is £310m a year, mostly salaries and services but also capital projects. Funding is primarily Government grants and charging Surrey residents the highest Council Tax in the country, plus income from lending officers to the Met and renting out police cells to the prison service.

As a small organisation facing cashflow fluctations, it makes sense for Surrey Police to share Surrey County Council’s larger banking and treasury management arrangements. Temporary surpluses can’t just be run down as some have suggested. Prudent treasury management principles require every organisation to hold a buffer to meet monthly expenditure requirements plus a contingency, and Surrey Police is no exception.

Lisa Townsend – Conservative and current Surrey PCC

Since I was elected as Police and Crime Commissioner in 2021, Surrey now has more police officers than ever before, and it has been great to hear from residents across the county that this is making a difference in our communities.

I believe the £43million figure comes from Cllr Coley’s misunderstanding of how the Police receive council tax each year – the extra £13million represents surplus cash due to the timing of council tax receipts at the time of the Budget meeting in February.

There is no loan to Surrey County Council. The £43m is the amount of cash held at the 31/8/23. This represents reserves of about £30m as well as cash held due to the timing of council tax receipts, grants, payments out, etc. Rather than holding all our cash in a single bank we pool it on an overnight basis with SCC who add it to their spare cash and invest it in overnight money market deposits with many banks. This reduces the risk as this pooled money is spread over a larger number of institutions than if we were to do this alone, and it also reduces the cost of management.

With regard to underspend, Surrey Police is a large organisation with a budget of over £300million and more than four thousand employees. When the Chief Constable and his finance team set the budget, they make every effort to consider as many possible scenarios and circumstances as possible, including how many officers and staff are expected to leave or join. These forecasts are, understandably, not always entirely accurate and for the year 2022/23 a higher than expected staff vacancy rate contributed to a large underspend. For the year 2023/24 the Force underspend is projected to be around £1million. Cllr Coley sat on Surrey’s Police and Crime Panel for almost a year and was present at the latest budget meeting so is aware of these figures and the reasons behind them.

When it comes to reserves, it is prudent practice for most organisations to hold some money in reserve to deal with unexpected costs or emergencies. Major incidents and investigations such as the Covid-19 pandemic, a period of prolonged protest, cyber attack or a terrorist attack would require large amounts of money to be spent quickly, without a guarantee that these costs will be paid back by the Government. The latest financial information from Surrey Police shows that the reserves are currently predicted to be £30.3m. Given the annual budget for 2024/25 is nearly £310m – this represents around 10% or the equivalent of about 5 weeks budget.

This is less than the average for police forces nationally, which stands at 13%, and significantly lower than our neighbouring forces and Borough and District Councils in Surrey who typically who hold up to 150% of their annual budget in reserve. I’m not entirely comfortable having a lower reserve than other forces but I have to balance the demand on taxpayers with the money available for use in an emergency and I believe that 10% is fair given the other pressures. As we have seen in Surrey and beyond in recent years, over-spending and imprudent management of finances and reserves is the fastest way to become a failing council and I will do all I can to ensure that Surrey Police are not put in this position.

Whilst it sounds lovely to spend this reserve amount on additional officers, this would only be possible once. Of course, once reserves are spent, they are gone forever, meaning not only could these officers not continue to be funded, but Surrey Police would also be in a difficult position is any crisis or challenge occurred.

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