COUNCILLORS have described the Police and Crime Commissioner’s (PCC) pledge to recruit 300 officers in Gloucestershire by the end of his term as a “pie in the sky” and have called for the “unhelpful” target to be dropped.
But PCC Chris Nelson told a police and crime panel last Friday (February 4) that he remained committed to his manifesto pledge, despite admitting that he would be “jolly lucky” if he achieved the full 300 by the end of his four-year term in office.
The PCC has proposed a council tax increase of 3.7 per cent, which will add £10 to a band D householder’s annual bill, to help raise an extra £3.1 million to fund his “ambitious” rebuilding programme.
Mr Nelson said his budget proposals for Gloucestershire Constabulary will create 400 extra personnel but only around 200 would be full time.
He said he had to change his priorities after a visit by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services found the force was failing to record crime effectively and was inadequately serving victims of crime.
Councillor Ray Brassington (Lib Dem) said: “You’ve made great play about increasing the number of police officers by 300.”
He asked for a timescale for when the target would be achieved.
Mr Nelson said: “That’s a hard one. It’s a promise I remain committed to.
“Somehow I would love to get another 100 full time officers.
“I’ll be jolly lucky if I manage to achieve the full 300 full time expansion by the time I get to the end of my term.”
Councillor Colin Hay (Lib Dem) asked what the realistic prospect was of achieving the 300 in the next two years, adding that there was nothing in the budget that showed how the target could be realistically achieved by the next election.
“That was a very firm commitment,” he said.
“You talked in the manifesto about police officers and PCSOs and now that’s morphing to police staff.
“You’ve also said it’s quite difficult recruiting police officers. Did you not know that before making those commitments?
“What was suggested was almost impossible. I’m surprised you still feel you can, in a straightforward way say, with a bit of luck I might still achieve what I’m trying to get.”
Mr Nelson said there was a lot he can do going forward.
“I accept that 300 is a difficult ask but I’ve explained all the circumstances about why I can’t get there as fast as I would like.
“But the budget that you see in front of you today is the best budget this panel has ever seen.
“You will not find a budget that funds that level of expansion of personnel so please stop banging on in the way that you are.”
Chairman Jonny Brownsteen (Lib Dem) asked the commissioner to remain civil.
Independent member Martin Smith asked for the target of 300 officers to be dropped as it was not helpful.
“Many people have been on this committee for a while,” he said.
“The idea of 300 new officers was pretty much pie in the sky at the time.”
The panel went on to unanimously support the PCC’s proposals to increase council tax, which he says will allow the constabulary to balance the books before he can implement his manifesto plans.
Mr Nelson says that planning his first budget has been a “challenge” as he inherited a “a substantial deficit” from the previous administration.
He said the constabulary’s reserves had been “depleted”, ICT infrastructure needed to be updated and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate has identified areas requiring “urgent improvement”.
He also described the constabulary as “one of the worst-funded in the country”.
A public consultation on the tax increase took place in January.
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