Time to raid police piggy bank squeals local councillor

A COUNCILLOR has slammed Sussex Police bosses for increasing the funds kept in reserve at the same time as shedding hundreds of jobs.

Speaking at a Sussex Police Authority meeting to set the force’s budget for the next four years, Cllr Godfrey Daniel questioned why the percentage of funds put aside was increasing when some 500 front-line officers and 550 police staff are facing the axe.

Although the amount of money in reserve will fall from £49.1 million to £43.9 million by 2015, cuts to the overall budget mean the reserve fund will jump from 3.8 per cent to five per cent of the total.

Cllr Daniel said: “When I have asked about reserves in the past I have been told that we need to put money away for a rainy day.

“Well you may not have noticed but it is economically pouring at the moment.

“It is absolutely ridiculous - when do we ever spend reserves?

“Taxpayers want to see their money going towards police officers and police staff and resolving crimes. They do not want to see it put in the bank.”

Cllr Daniel quoted Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, who has encouraged public bodies to raid their reserves to mitigate the effects of the spending cuts.

“He calls it a piggy bank and I am afraid this little piggy is squealing.

“I want to see the chief constable employing more police officers and I want to see policing improve in this county.

“I do not want criminals to enjoy this budget, saying ‘This is great, with less police officers it will be much easier for us and less chance of going to prison.’

“I do not want to live in that world,” he added.

A proposed amendment to set aside £60,000 for Safer Neighbourhoods Grants which help local community groups was turned down with local member Carole Shaves MBE one of those speaking against it.

She said: “In a perfect world I would support it but we are in a difficult position and that is the salary of three police community support officers (PCSOs). We have to show we are hand-in-hand with the police in making sacrifices.”

The authority passed the budget proposals despite Cllr Daniel’s misgivings.

It must make £52 million worth of savings by 2015 although Chief Constable Martin Richards insists services will not suffer.

Hastings Police Station looks set to have its front office opening hours slashed under the plans.