Police forces in West Midlands could face budget shortfall of £55m by 2026, union warns
Police forces in the West Midlands could face a combined budget shortfall of more than £55m by 2026, which a union has warned could put public safety at risk.
An analysis of police financial forecasts by Unison reveals that 'drastic cuts to spending' have been planned by forces in the region.
The worst affected force in the region is West Midlands Police with a projected deficit of £33.5m, followed by West Mercia Police with a projected deficit of £11.7m.
Together, the two forces will have a combined budget deficit of more than £45m in just three years' time.
The analysis says that Staffordshire Police will face a £6m deficit, while Warwickshire Police will have a £3.8m deficit.
Police forces across England and Wales could face a £720m shortfall over the same period.
While forecasts aren't set in stone, police budgets will likely be several hundred million pounds short of what’s needed, Unison said.
As a result, the union believes efforts to tackle and prevent crimes such as anti-social behaviour, burglaries, violent assaults, organised crime and fraud could be compromised.
The union also claims that many vital staff roles are already being kept vacant or have been cut altogether to save money, and that cutting police staff jobs will also severely undermine the Government’s pledge to put more police on the streets.
This is because newly recruited officers will need to do the work once done by police staff whose jobs have now been cut, Unison says.
Unison West Midlands regional secretary Ravi Subramanian said: “Without more funding to plug these huge budget shortfalls, public confidence in the police will continue to fall.
“With fewer police staff to investigate cases and smaller numbers of police and community support officers patrolling local neighbourhoods, there’s a risk crime rates will climb.
“Severe cuts to police budgets will leave many forces in the West Midlands unable to protect communities or bring criminals to justice.
“Policing will become that much harder and staff will be left feeling increasingly anxious about their futures.
“These figures are yet another warning sign that policing is in deep crisis. Ministers must ensure forces can afford to recruit the right staff to fulfil their duties so officers can be out on the streets keeping people and their communities safe.”
The data analysed by Unison was based on medium-term financial plans submitted by individual police forces to their local police and crime panels.
The four police forces in the West Midlands are: West Midlands Police, West Mercia Police, Staffordshire Police, and Warwickshire Police.
West Mercia's police and crime commissioner John Campion said: “My work since 2016 has clearly shown my focus on increasing the resources available for policing whilst supporting West Mercia Police to ensure they can live within their resources. However this is also about investing in order to continue meeting public priorities.
“As part of my budget setting for 2023/24, I have been clear that my priority is creating a safer West Mercia. This includes ensuring West Mercia Police has the resources it needs, including police officers and staff, to carry out their roles effectively.
"I have been proud to boost officer numbers in West Mercia to the highest figure on record. My priority will continue to ensuring our police force can deliver a level of service the public expect, whilst tackling the financial challenges we are all facing as a society.”