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£22m extra police cuts needed in West Mercia
A FURTHER £22 million of cuts needs to be made by West Mercia Police by 2019, it has emerged.
Residents in the force area - which includes Wyre Forest - will be asked to foot the bill through a two per cent council tax rise, according to a 2014/15 budget report released by police and crime commissioner Bill Longmore.
The bombshell comes as West Mercia is already halfway through a plan to cut £20 million from spending between 2012 and 2016 - which has the closure of police stations, including Bewdley's.
It has also sparked fears more jobs could go, after 140 frontline officers were axed across the force in 2012, although deputy commissioner Barrie Sheldon has confrimed there will be no more officers lost during Mr Longmore's tenure - which lasts until 2016.
The report says: "Even with a modest increase in the council tax this year, all of the indications are budget reductions will continue to be the order of the day for some years yet.
"Further savings of £9.7 million in the West Mercia budget in 2014/15 and 2015/16 are already planned and their delivery is in progress. It is now expected there to be a further savings requirement over the period to the end of 2018/19 of £21.8 million in West Mercia and the commissioner will be considering proposals for meeting this requirement over the next few months."
Mr Longmore says he will make an "invest to save" fund from force reserves to "help speed the delivery of the required savings", which could soften the blow to services provided by West Mercia.
The police and crime commissioner's budget proposals could also see 49 more police community support officers introduced across West Mercia, a fund of £2 million for community safety initiatives and victim services and community ambassadors for each police command area.
Independent Community and Health Concern leader Graham Ballinger, who has previously called for more police on Kidderminster's streets, said, however, more cuts would affect the quality of policing.
"It is a further downgrade," he added. "No matter how many statements people make to paper over the cracks, it is downgrading, we want to see fully commissioned police officers on the streets."
The proposed increase in council tax would add £3.63 next year to the average band D bill. Worcestershire County Council and Wyre Forest District Council have also proposed raising their portions of tax bill by just under two per cent.
Mr Longmore is inviting comments from the public on the plans by Tuesday, January 28. For more information visit westmercia-pcc.gov.uk
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