Underfunding of Bedfordshire Police to be addressed by Home Office

Conservative PCC candidate, Festus Akinbusoye
PCC Festus Akinbusoye

Policing in Bedfordshire is underfunded by a quarter of the resources the county force needs, a meeting heard.

The funding formula for police forces under which Bedfordshire is treated as a rural setting could be reviewed during the current Parliament, according to Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Festus Akinbusoye.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever had that kind of reassurance,” he told a Biggleswade Town Council meeting.

“The funding formula is an issue,” he explained. “It’s one of the reasons why in Bedfordshire, we’re funded as a rural location rather than an urban area.

“There are the real challenges (locally) of many of the large towns in the country. I’ve been informed by the Home Office this is an issue which is going to be resolved hopefully during this Parliament.

“And what it means is we’ll be in a position where once and for all we’ve the beginning of an adequate level of policing.”

Mr Akinbusoye was invited to speak to town councillors and answered questions that focused on police funding and town centre disorder.

Councillor Duncan Strachan described Bedfordshire Police as “25 per cent underfunded because of the formula, which is totally and utterly wrong”.

He said: “We’ll give you every support we can to enable you to get that funding because it’s absolutely essential for Bedfordshire.

“We need police on the street, of which you’re clearly very conscious. I appreciate your funding difficulties. We’re a classic county lines town.”

The PCC replied: “What we’ve had to rely on as a policing area is the special grant to plug the gap both in the demand and the resource we’ve got available.

“Bedfordshire is number four in Britain in the level of exposure to importing and exporting of county lines. We knew we had some serious challenges, but we didn’t realise it was that bad.

“Ten per cent of all the firearms seized nationwide were from Bedfordshire. That gives an indication of how bad things were.

“About five or six firearms have been seized In the last three weeks,” he said. “So we’ve some serious issues in our county.

“It’s a target for county lines and we widely acknowledge that. But the government knows we have to get this funding formula resolved.

“We can’t keep relying on the special grant on an annual basis to deal with this. It means the level of policing we need in [Bedfordshire] just doesn’t happen.

“The resources get taken up by gang activities in other parts of Bedfordshire, but we all pay for policing and I want everywhere in the county to benefit from what we need.”

Bedfordshire Police County Lines raids January 21 22 2019
Beds Police raid addresses associated with county lines

The national crime plan which will be published around the middle of August will have an emphasis on prevention and early intervention, added the PCC.

“While it’s important we carry on with the enforcement priorities, it will tackle the special crimes at the high level we get such as drug dealers and gangs, which are an absolute nightmare in Bedfordshire.

“I believe we need to be equally aggressive in dealing with a lot of the causes of the crime we see in our communities, especially the exploitation of young people when they’re being drawn into gangs.

“Some of the things which happen regarding young people are absolutely shocking. We’re working closely with local authorities, and there’s work going on in schools.

“The violence reduction unit has people going to the schools engaging with young people and informing them about the dangers of county lines, again involving drugs.”

by Euan Duncan
Local Democracy Reporter

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