Policing boss fears over finances unless Goverment changes direction

OUTGOING Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings has warned of a “bleak future” without a change of government attitude to the way forces are funded - with the prospect of AI replacing jobs.
Standing down: Dr Alan BillingsStanding down: Dr Alan Billings
Standing down: Dr Alan Billings

After almost ten years in the role, Dr Billings will stand down in early May, but has compiled mid-range budget forecasts ahead of that.

While the 2024/5 finances are secure, the years ahead look less certain, as policing is one public spending area which is not protected by current government policy.

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Current expectations were that budgets would need to be balanced through savings on staff - and with police numbers protected, that would fall on civilian colleagues.

“How do you get police to do more with less money?” he asked.

“The only way to increase productivity is to reduce numbers. You cannot reduce police officer numbers so it is staff.

“Artificial intelligence will pick up a lot of jobs which can be automated,” he said.

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That could include departments like human resources, finance, legal services and other support staff.

But he said: “That is a bleak future, if we carry on like this. Hopefully, there will be a new Government, a change in attitude and a change in approach.

“When you look at medium term forecasts, I have said they can only balance the books with that type of savings.”

The force currently has 3,039 officers and if those numbers were allowed to drop, it would affect the amount of money the Home Office puts in. So civilian roles would bear the brunt of savings.

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Dr Billings said AI could be useful, in terms of freeing up time for both officers and police staff to do other things - improving the service.

“AI works two ways, it can be a wrecking ball but can give opportunities.

“It can do jobs currently done by humans, quicker, which releases people to do other things.

“But if you are having to look for money, AI is a way you can reduce numbers. It releases hours, but if you need to find cashable savings, AI is a way of doing it.”

A further problem was that investment would be needed to support AI, meaning police chiefs would have “spend now to save later”, he said. “You have a juggling act to get that right.”