PCC writes to Policing Minister to voice concern over 'hugely damaging' cut to Safer Streets funding12.01.24 - Merseyside
Merseyside's Police Commissioner has written an open letter to the Policing Minister expressing her disappointment and frustration after being informed that vital Safer Streets Funding allocated to the region has now been slashed.
Emily Spurrell has voiced her concern to Chris Philp MP after learning that the funding which is used to tackle Violence against Women and Girls and improve the safety of communities has been cut for a second time, significantly impacting on the projects which can be delivered on behalf of communities in Liverpool and Knowsley.
Here is the letter in full:
Re: Safer Streets Funding Round 5 Award Reduction
I write to express my concern in relation to the further reduction of £180,000 to the funding Merseyside is set to receive through the Safer Streets Fund Round 5.
When this fund was first announced in July 2023, the Home Office invited PCCs to bid for up to £1.4m for projects to improve the safety of our residents and tackle Violence Against Women and Girls in our region.
A significant amount of work was undertaken by my office and our partners to identify and develop bids for the projects that we believed could have the maximum benefit for our communities.
Since then, we have suffered disappointment after disappointment. Firstly, and despite the development of bids being well underway, the funding available was reduced by £400,000 to £1m and the number of projects we could invest was cut from four to three.
Given the huge amount of positive work delivered in Merseyside to improve public safety and tackle VAWG through our existing Safer Streets work, this ill-considered and short-sighted decision caused substantial concern.
Not only that, but it also caused significant difficulties and unnecessary additional work; requiring projects to be scaled back, bids to be rewritten and forced my office to reject one highly considered bid, to the frustration of all involved.
While this reduction was deeply dissatisfactory, my office and our local authority partners worked hard to accommodate this last minute and utterly avoidable change of circumstances without complaint to deliver the best possible projects for our residents.
However, I feel compelled to write to voice my concern at this latest, further round of cuts which comes after projects have already been agreed and delivery is underway.
To slash £180,000 from a budget of £471,000 – a reduction of more than 38% - for Year 2 of these much-needed projects in Liverpool and Knowsley is hugely damaging and utterly nonsensical.
On one hand, the Government has stated that ‘Safer Streets is growing confidence in policing’, yet on the other they are taking the funding away by stealth.
My partners in the two affected local authority areas will now have to significantly scale plans back that have already been approved and mapped out; plans that were well thought out during bid development and required considerable investment in time and effort to ensure they could be delivered effectively and on time.
Crucially, this will have a major impact on the communities these projects are designed to support, potentially reducing our ability to implement improvements which are entirely focused on increasing the safety, and feelings of safety, of people in those areas.
Furthermore, due to the earlier funding reduction, my office was keen to ensure submissions were realistic and would achieve maximum impact for the funding that was awarded. This was reflected in the submitted bids, which totalled £912,666, less than the available £1m offered.
As such, the Home Office’s blanket approach to the funding means our region has effectively been penalised twice. I am aware that several OPCCs also did not claim their full allocation and I would question, therefore, why the overall underspend of the Safer Streets pot does not cover the shortfall in funding?
I am aware that there is a requirement to report changes back to the Home Office by 23rd February 2024 and my office is currently in discussions with our partners to find the most cost-effective way to ensure these stripped-back projects can continue.
However, I would urge you in the meantime to reconsider this decision which will have a significant impact upon the outcomes of the Merseyside Safer Streets Fund programmes. To continue on this current path will leave us with no option but to remove individual elements or scale back the delivery of parts of the programme, which in turn will have a significant impact upon the overall outcome and the improvements we can make on behalf of our communities.
As a minimum, I would urge you to consider scaling the reduction for those areas that were not been awarded the full £1m allocation.
I look forward to your response.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside