POLICE and Crime Commissioner Tony Hogg is to bring in outside consultants – at a cost of £20,000 – to help identify further savings within the force.
Local Policing and Partnerships (LP&P), which is owned jointly by the Treasury and the Local Government Association, is to spend 20 days analysing where costs can be cut. The appointment comes with Mr Hogg and the force having to find another £12 million a year in savings.
"Policing budgets are being continually squeezed," said Andrew White, chief executive of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC).
"Devon and Cornwall has already managed to find £40 million cost savings but, by careful financial management, Tony Hogg has managed to maintain police numbers over 3,000, significantly higher than planned by the (former) police authority. But now policing in the peninsula faces further reductions of £12 million a year by 2017/18. The commissioner's guarantee on police officers is unbreakable but we now need to look to the longer term to ensure that officer numbers can be maintained beyond 2018.
"We are currently developing a financial roadmap which will help us to identify how to achieve that, while doing everything to protect policing services.
"LP&P are experts in finding further efficiencies which can be introduced into the financial roadmap. They have worked with many other police forces across the country and have significant expertise in how to drive down costs.
"The price of the contract is small in relation to the benefits of getting this important stage of financial planning right at the outset.
"LP&P have expertise and experience that neither the police nor the OPCC possess. By engaging them for this initial piece of work it will help us target our efforts over the coming months and years to achieve maximum benefit."
But critics again pointed to the costs of the OPCC, given the cuts that were being borne by the force. Mr Hogg's office is expected to cost £1.8 million this year – 12 per cent more than the last financial year.
Sergeant Nigel Rabbitts, chairman of the Devon and Cornwall branch of the Police Federation, said the public would "no doubt hear the argument about spending to save".
He added: "We have already stated our concerns about the spiralling bureaucratic charges from the OPCC."