Multi-million pound pension deficit hits amid growing concerns
The police and crime commissioner for Cambridgeshire has warned a multi-million pound pension deficit combined with the demands of Brexit and population growth could cause a ‘perfect storm’ for policing in the county.
In an interview with the Cambridge Independent, Jason Ablewhite revealed a pension black hole to the tune of £4million annually has come to light and could impact on officer numbers.
He added that Brexit would pile on the pressure - with potential civil unrest or officers being drafted in to deal with backlogs of lorries at Dover.
Acknowledging that the service was already under strain Mr Ablewhite said he would fight "tooth and nail" for more funding, adding: “If we are not careful we are heading for a perfect storm.”
“Even now there are pressures that mean the police can’t do absolutely everything that the public expect them to do. If you look at the growth profile going forwards - you have an increasing population so there will inevitably be more demand for policing to deal with.
“We have also got a potential significant pressure from pensions which has only come to light in the last few weeks, which is a national issue. The auditors who do these pensions predictions has decreed that Policing, the Fire service and teaching has a black hole in their pension schemes.
“In Cambridgeshire that’s £4m a year. It’s a significant amount of our budget - around five percent. To put it into perspective, it is more than the equivalent of what I raised in tax last year to put 55 new officers in post. You receive it on one hand and there’s the potential it can get wiped out with the other.”
He explained that although the government has agreed to fund the pension deficit for one year, it has not been guaranteed in the future. This means £4million could be drained from police funds every year.
“It would have to come from the policing budget which is so light on the ground anyway in terms of the efficiencies that we have already squeezed out," he said.
“It would potentially affect officer numbers which i will fight tooth and nail to ensure that Cambridgeshire doesn’t lose any (officers) after I have just managed to increase it for the first time in 13 years
“I will be seeking assurances from the government that that black hole is paid for by the treasury because we cannot afford to go backwards now we are starting to go in the right direction,” said Mr Ablewhite.
Meanwhile, uncertainty about the impact of Brexit means Cambridgeshire police are preparing for all eventualities.
“That may be civil unrest, or it may be that Cambridgeshire has to provide mutual aid to places like Kent, in terms of the backlog of people potentially going through the Channel Tunnel,” he said.
“There could be a backlog of lorries which are going to cause humanitarian issues, potentially, if people are stuck on motorways. So we are going to have to be as ready as we can be.”
“From my perspective you haven’t got more officers they don’t just come off the shelf so the only way you increase your resilience is you have to pay overtime so those officers on rest days have to come in. If that bill is significant that comes knocking on my door.”