Force’s budget cut fears

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A CASH-strapped police force could be forced to cut its budget that deals with serious incidents such as murders and kidnaps.

A proposed cut of 26 per cent to Cleveland Police’s major incident fund would mean £244,000 less set aside to resource unforeseen crimes including murders, fatal road crashes, kidnaps, major arson and organised crime.

And suggestions to boost the force’s budgets have ranged from charging for policing charity and community events to hiring out custody suites for TV programmes.

In reports to Cleveland Police Authority’s (CPA) policy and resources panel, Temporary Chief Constable Jacqui Cheer said the force’s long-term financial plan has affected the allocation of cash for the major incident fund.

Treasurer of Cleveland Police Authority Michael Porter also said the ongoing cost of Operation Sacristy, a criminal and misconduct probe into people with current or past associations with CPA “cannot be underestimated” and poses a “significant financial risk”.

The current cost of the probe stands at more than £1.6m and the CPA have dipped into cash reserves to cover the direct costs.

But Mr Porter warns that if they are unsuccessful in a special grant application to the Home Office, there is insufficient funds to cover the estimated £1.7m costs of the investigation this financial year.

Mrs Cheer has also put forward suggestions to the panel for generating income in a separate report.

Other police forces are looking at charging for the policing of events such as Remembrance Sunday parades and community events, and she says this could be considered in Cleveland.

Other suggestions include hiring out the custody suite at Stockton for rental to other forces and TV companies and a monthly £10 charge for staff car parking.

But Mrs Cheer urged caution as the changes pose “potential risks to the reputation of the force in terms of our integrity and impartiality”.

The policy and resources panel meets next Thursday.