The purpose of this report is to inform the Police & Crime Panel of the Surrey Police Group (i.e. Finances of both the PCC and Chief Constable) financial position as at the 30th September 2019, comparing the expenditure and income incurred by both Surrey Police and the Office of the Surrey Police & Crime Commissioner, with the revenue and capital budgets approved by the Police & Crime Commissioner in January 2019 for the financial year 2019/20.
Ian Perkin - Treasurer, Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC)
David Munro - Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC)
Key points raised in the discussion:
1. The Treasurer introduced the report and noted that individual budget variances were outlined in the report.
2. A Member queried the budget variance for the Building the Future project and if that was the result of deliberate non-appointments.In response, the Treasurer explained that people were being appointed but the process took longer than expected. He also noted that the PCC chaired the Building the Future Board which had identified governance changes.
3. In response to a Member question, the Treasurer stated that the early purchase of the new headquarters at Leatherhead had not increased the cost of the project. Costs were reduced as the property had been withdrawn from market and then put back on it. As a result, subsequent renegotiations led to a £5 million saving.
4. Similarly, the Treasurer responded to the Vice-Chairman’s query, by explaining that the high £867,000 of unbudgeted interest costs for the new Leatherhead headquarters was due to the site’s move on and off the market. The loan from the Public Works Loan Board was at a fixed rate of 2% but would see no additional costs due to balancing out over its 20 year period.
5. In response to a Member questioning the total underspend of the individual budget variances, the Treasurer explained that in total there wasa £61,000 forecasted underspend for the force at the end of the year and a £74,000 underspend for the OPCC. There were delays in recruiting officers due to the precept increase last year - resulting in the large underspend in the police payroll and there were delays in the Building the Future project.
6. In response to a Member’s disappointment over the raised precept in order to recruit and then the subsequent underspend, the PCC noted that there was an enormous recruitment effort.The PCC clarified that the original plan before raising the precept was to reluctantly reduce officer numbers by 25 - they were later retained as the precept cap was lifted leading to recruiting 75 officers and staff to 100. This was later increased to 104 as there was room in the force’s budget. The PCC would report the exact figures on the change of the amount of police staff and officers at the Panel’s next meeting.
7. The PCC explained that retention was an issue, but noted positively that many detectives had transferred in and many Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) had transferred to become police constables.In response to a Member question over the underspend in the Police Payroll budget, the Treasurer stated that using PCSOs and Investigative Officers was less costly but only to be used on an interim basis whilst recruiting.
8. Surrey’s share of the Government’s 20,000 uplift would be 78 next year and recruitment targets would be met, the PCC was uncertain on future years. He noted that nationally the police should have had a steady increase in officers over the last decade rather than erratic and inadequate recruitment drives - the uplift only equalled policing numbers of 10 years ago.
9. The PCC stated that within the consultation on next year’s precept, the public would receive updated figures on police numbers before the Panel as soon as the Government informs police forces on their uplift amounts.
10. In response to a Member query over the Vehicle Replacement overspend of £280,198, the Treasurer noted that the figure was in fact the year-to-date variance and the force would equal its forecasted budget.
11. The Treasurer noted a Member’s concern on the change mid-way through the year from a total overspend to an underspendand provided reassurance that the budget was managed regularly over the year without the need for one-off reductions. Staffing was a large part of the force’s expenditure and this had to be balanced based on new recruits and vacancies.
12. A Member commented that a further increase in the precept for next year would be difficult for residents to understand due to the force’s total underspending - especially with increased crimes in his local borough. The PCC noted that Surrey remained a low crime county, but more police officers were needed to tackle the rise of crime in certain areas. Next year’s uplift and last year’s precept rise redressed low officer numbers, but future uncertainty remained on the grant amount from the Government.
13. In response to the Vice-Chairman’s query on the significant change in overspend on Estates and Facilities by the end of the year, the Treasurer noted that the budget would be profiled - spreading the annual budget across the months of the year where expenditure would be anticipated. Subsequently, the overspend had been amended in the end of year forecast as profiling was not done correctly by the new management accountant system.
14. The Treasurer responded to the Vice-Chairman’s question on the force’s Capital Budget underspend in which it would spend £17 million in the next six months, by noting that underspending the budget had been a re-occurring problemby Surrey Police.
15. The Treasurer and the PCC urged the force to over-programme spending as for good reasons key capital schemes often slipped and the PCC noted that it was important to avoid the last minute rush in March to fund ill-thought out projects solely to balance the budget.
The Panel noted the report.
Actions/Further information to be provided:
R51/19: The PCC would report the exact figures on the change of the amount of police staff and officers at the Panel’s next meeting - including the use of PCSOs and Investigative Officers.