Coppers need more funding in Cambs

GIVE us back our £15million and pay us an extra £2million a year to match the rapid growth in the county s population, Cambridgeshire police told the Government today. Nearly 35 per cent of Cambridgeshire s income comes directly from Council Tax payers, c

GIVE us back our £15million and pay us an extra £2million a year to match the rapid growth in the county's population, Cambridgeshire police told the Government today.

Nearly 35 per cent of Cambridgeshire's income comes directly from Council Tax payers, compared with 12 per cent in Northumbria and less than 14 per cent in the West Midlands, because the Government is using wildly out-of-date statistics to calculate how much each force needs.

Allocations are based on the 2001 census data, collected well before that.

"Cambridgeshire today is not the Cambridgeshire of 2001," Chief Constable Julie Spence told The Hunts Post today. "And our population is predicted to rise by 12 per cent by 2016."

The county police force, which also covers Peterborough, faces two problems. First, the population under-estimate for Britain's fastest-growing county. Second, a system of "floors and ceilings" in Government funding allocations that discriminate against Cambridgeshire in favour of urban police forces.

In the five years since 2002/03 a shortfall of almost £15million has accumulated in cash the police think they should have had from Government.

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In addition, Mrs Spence is demanding a further £2million year on year to match the growing population. This would provide 25 additional police officers every year, on top of the current 1,400, taking the headcount per 100,000 closer to the national average. But it would take a 45 per cent increase in officer numbers - from the current 183 per 100,000 to the average 266 - and Mrs Spence admits the force's infrastructure simply could not accommodate such growth.

The money would also provide additional community support officers and help pay the £1million-a-year cost of interpreters for the county's migrant population, with more than 100 different languages being spoken across the county.

The rapid growth in the number of Eastern Europeans working in Cambridgeshire - which has taken half the workers who have come to the east of England since enlargement of the European Union in May 2004 - has thrown up particular problems, notably in relation to drink-driving and carrying knives for protection.

"It's a culture issue, not that they are inherently more criminal. Inevitably, any group has its criminal element, including the settled population.

"I believe it's just transitional until they come to understand our customs and how they are different. For example, the settled Polish population has exactly the same crime profile as the rest of the population. They will learn.

"They have become a real powerhouse of the county's economy, but in the meantime it's taking my officers three times as long to deal with a suspect, victim or witness for whom English is a foreign language," Mrs Spence said.

But it is the population numbers that are the biggest concern, because they drive two-thirds of the budget.

"We need to get them away from a metropolitan view of the world. There's a London view that we are a wealthy rural county. But we have real problems and different problems."

Mrs Spence and police authority chairman Keith Walters have invited Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to visit the county to see what policing looks like on the ground.

And if the Home Office does not listen? "I shall shout a bit louder.