Armed terror patrols prove costly to Cumbria Police

11 October 2017 1:22PM

Armed patrols deployed due to the national terror attacks have put extra financial pressure on Cumbria Police - with the force set to bust its budget.

Reassurance operations carried out on high streets and at major events have pushed up overtime bills, prompting an overspend.

Officers with guns were seen at a number of high profile events in the county, particularly over the summer.

At Carlisle, these included the Cumberland Show, Race for Life and a number of pop concerts.

What we can't do is take our finger off the pulse in relation to the national threat from terrorism

Armed officers were also seen at Appleby Horse Fair and Cartmel Races - as well as on the streets of places including Barrow town centre.

Cumbria's chief constable Jerry Graham warned in the summer that there

 Armed police at Carlisle Pride, Carlisle city centre.

Armed police at Carlisle Pride, Carlisle city centre.

was no end to the terror threat in sight.

He said people should get used to armed officers on the county's streets.

Now this tactic has fallen under the spotlight shone by those scrutinising the work of Cumbria's crime commissioner, Peter McCall.

A report to the Cumbria Police and Crime Panel monitors the force's budget.

It says a current forecast of net expenditure in this financial year has reached more than £112m – topping the budget by more than £250,000.

The report says the overspend actually totalled more than £610,000.

But it has has been partially offset by underspending elsewhere in the force.

The overspend is largely due to police officer pay.

Some of this is down to changes in staffing and issues such as temporary promotions.

But the report adds: "The remaining overspend on police officer pay of £240,000 is attributable to an increase in the use of police overtime.

"Forecast spend on overtime has increased mainly due to the implementation of enhanced patrols to provide public reassurance following the terrorist incidents in Manchester and London."

 Martin Plummer from the Police Federation

Martin Plummer from the Police Federation

Martin Plummer is chairman of Cumbria Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers.

He said the federation was surprised the force and the commissioner had been able to keep the total down as much as they had.

"We thought it would be significantly higher," he said.

"What we can't do is take our finger off the pulse in relation to the national threat from terrorism.

"People assume it will only affect London, Manchester, Birmingham.

"We have to look very closely at large events, public events and crowded places."

He said the overtime spend meant the force "clearly" did not have enough officers.

Mr Plummer added: "This should be a wake up call to local government and then down to Westminster."

Mr Graham warned during the summer that there would continue to be:

 Chief Constable Jerry Graham

Chief Constable Jerry Graham

– Armed officers on the street in Cumbria;

– More events being police;

– More officers with dogs out-and-about at gatherings and events.

He said: "I don't recall a time during my career when there was a continued period of tension like this.

"We are in unusual days and you wonder when it will return to normal? I don't think we can assume it will."

Underspends that help balance the books include some civilian staff posts being vacant.

The report will be discussed at meeting on Monday at Cumbria's fire service headquarters, near Penrith.

The Cumbria Police and Crime Panel consists of councillors, with members coming from each of the county's authorities, plus two independent members

Commissioner's warning over funding

 Peter McCall, police and crime commissioner for Cumbria

Peter McCall, police and crime commissioner for Cumbria

Crime commissioner Peter McCall has already flagged up another financial issue for the force.

The Government last month announced a pay rise for police which breached the one per cent public sector pay cap.

Police will get a one per cent pay rise plus a one per cent bonus for the year.

Mr McCall says this will have to be found from within the force's current budget.

The impact of the national terror attacks has also fuelled calls to Cumbria's 999 line.

People's fears over the national picture has led to more awareness of suspicious behaviour - leading to a rise in demand, according to the force.

Chiefs said the force had seen unprecedented levels of demand over the summer.

This beat even the number of emergency calls received during the month Storm Desmond hit, bringing catastrophic flooding in December 2015.

Senior officers say this situation was "pretty similar" across the UK.

In December 2015 the force received 5,486 emergency calls via 999 when the county was hit with the floods.

But there were 5,890 and 5,690 received during July and August this year.

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