The Cost of Surrey’s Crime Commissioner: “It’s criminal”?
The Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey Police was elected in May 2021 on a turnout of Surrey voters of 38%. That was 5% higher than the national average but the election coincided with Surrey County Council’s election in all the County’s 81 single-member seats.
The Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner is Conservative Lisa Townsend. Her office explains her role: “Your Commissioner is responsible for overseeing the work of Surrey Police, holding the Chief Constable to account on your behalf, and funding key services that strengthen community safety and support victims.”
The Liberal Democrats are calling for the abolition of this post after uncovering the cost of running the office. They state the post has cost £3.2 million since 2019. And claim: “Since 2021, the Surrey Commissioner, Lisa Townsend, has had three staff members to run her office social media feeds. The Commissioner has increased the office costs since being elected by £180,000 – the equivalent to seven community police officers. Since the Commissioner was elected, Surrey has also seen a fall in community officer numbers (39).”
This compares with an annual budget for Surrey Police of about £250 million and its employment of approximately 2153 officers.
Julie Morris Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Epsom & Ewell Borough Council told The Times:
“I have never understood the purpose of Police Commissioners. Political appointees have no place in solving crime. My experience is that many crimes considered small and personal are unworthy of being given Police attention. These can cause a great deal of emotional distress and are simply neither followed up nor are they treated seriously. Putting resources back into those categories of crime will help grow confidence in the Police.”
Top Image is a mock up by Epsom and Ewell Times of Surrey’s Police and Crime Commissioner Lisa Townsend holding two mobile phones.
Lisa Townsend responded to the Epsom and Ewell Times and said: “Surrey Police now has more frontline officers than ever before. It will be officially announced this week that the Force has not only met but exceeded its target for extra officers under the government’s programme to increase numbers by 20,000 across the country. That means more than 300 extra police officers will have joined the ranks since 2019. This is great news for residents and I believe the new recruits will help to make the Force the strongest it has been in a generation.
“Last year, Surrey Police made an operational decision to temporarily halt the recruitment of Police Community Support Officers which was identified as one way of helping the Force meet its savings target. There were no ‘drastic cuts’ – these posts were replaced with new warranted officers and there were no redundancies or loss of numbers to Surrey Police’s frontline teams. We expect PCSOs to be back to the current numbers within the next three years and I am pleased to say that recruitment for this important role has been reopened and the Force are actively seeking applications right now.
“As far as my office budget is concerned, it is important to stress that is accounts for just 0.5% of the total policing budget for which I am responsible.
“When I was elected as Commissioner in 2021, there were only three PCC teams in the entire country that were smaller than we had in Surrey. I would be failing in my elected duty if I did not make sure it is properly equipped to effectively carry out all the responsibilities and growing demands of the PCC role.
“There was a small increase in my budget last year that added posts where we were at our weakest or least resilient which included one extra post in our communications team. I do not employ three people to ‘run our office social media feeds’ – the communications team fulfil a number of crucial roles on our wider engagement with the Surrey public across the county.
“My office is also responsible for commissioning vital services across our county that provide life-changing support for a variety of people across Surrey including survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence. In addition to our existing funding streams, over the last two years our commissioning team have worked tirelessly in managing to secure mpre than £4m in government funding for a range of projects in Surrey. This money will help provide key services helping some of the most vulnerable in our society as well as local projects, such as the Safer Streets initiative, that are making a real difference to our communities.”
Alex Coley – who has been chairing Epsom and Ewell Borough Council’s Community and Wellbeing Committee and was re-elected on 4th May for the RA in Ruxley Ward responded: “I attended the Police and Crime Panel on 18th April and was surprised to learn that the Surrey Police Group is showing both a capital underspend and a revenue underspend for this financial year. Several million pounds of surplus funds. In February the PCC decided to increase the share of Council Tax by 5.07%. This is a percentage increase greater than all 11 districts and boroughs in Surrey, even greater than the increase from the county council. I have to wonder why, given the multi-million pound surplus. How will this money be used?
Perhaps funds are not being effectively committed to policing priorities? The PCC is now half way through a four year plan in which the flagship policy is the prevention of violence against women and girls. A crucial policy for policing nationwide. However, it was revealed in February that Surrey Police have the worst rape charge rate in England and Wales. Furthermore, the PEEL report in June last year, by HMICFRS the policing inspectorate, showed a grading of Requires Improvement for suspect and offender management, with specific issues discovered in the management of sex offenders.”
“It’s criminal” is a well known expression denoting waste and has not been used here to suggest any criminal act.