Testing times for top South Yorkshire police officer

Pictured is South Yorks Police Chief Constable David Crompton talking to The Star today about the release of the 'Hillsborough Papers'
Pictured is South Yorks Police Chief Constable David Crompton talking to The Star today about the release of the 'Hillsborough Papers'

FURTHER annual budget cuts of £7.5 million are set to hit South Yorkshire Police for the next two financial years, Chief Constable David Crompton has warned.

The top officer revealed jobs are at risk due to the savings - which loom as the force faces an unexpected bill of half a million pounds to police two demonstrations by far-right groups in Rotherham.

The bad news comes after a seven-month ‘baptism of fire’ for Mr Crompton.

Since taking over in April, he has had to deal with the fall-out from the Hillsborough Independent Panel report, claims that police manipulated statements in the Battle of Orgreave during the miners’ strike, and allegations that police and social services failed to do enough to tackle predatory Asian men ‘grooming’ young girls for sex in Rotherham.

Mr Crompton said: “We have more difficult decisions to make with a further two years of cuts to implement as part of the Government’s spending review.

“We will have to lose staff because, over the next two years, we will have to make a further £7.5 million of savings in each.

“Our budget is currently about £240 million - having already saved £30 million over the last two years.”

Mr Crompton said he could give no reassurances about whether particular areas of spending would be protected, and was unable to say how many staff are at risk.

He said: “I don’t think, in the current environment, you could ever say there are things that will not be touched.

“However, there are some aspects of our work that we will go to last - such as frontline services.

“We are grateful for the financial support we have received from our local councils in this difficult time, which has helped us preserve jobs including 110 police officers and police community support officers.”

Mr Crompton revealed further strain on the police budget has been placed by successive demonstrations by far right groups in Rotherham.

First, the English Defence League protested and were met by rival demonstrators from Unite Against Fascism, then there was another march by the National Front.

Mr Crompton, who revealed South Yorkshire Police had asked the Home Office to consider banning the marches, said: “We had up to 700 officers on duty on each of the days, many of whom were on overtime.

“The total cost of policing the demonstrations has come to about £500,000.

“For the EDL march, we looked at whether we would be supported by the Home Office if we asked for it to be banned.

“But the threshold is set very high in terms of the amount of feared disorder before a ban can be approved, and the Home Office said that, in the Rotherham case, a ban was not likely to be supported.”

Mr Crompton said even if the march had been prevented, rallies cannot be banned so the protesters could still have gathered.

He added: “They could have assembled anywhere. From a policing perspective, it was better to negotiate with the organisers, allow them to march all together and properly monitor what was going on.”

Describing the months since taking over from his predecessor Med Hughes, Mr Crompton said: “People have said to me it’s been a ‘baptism of fire’.

“I would respond that it has been a difficult time for the force, and I take my hat off to everybody who has concentrated on trying to get the job done and not be distracted by big things going on.

“Everybody has kept going and done what has been expected in terms of the job of keeping the county safe.”

Mr Crompton added: “We’ve had a real battering in the media but it’s important not to forget the good work that happens.

“Last week, I gave commendations to officers for dealing with a siege in the Gleadless Valley area, during which they had been fired at eight or nine times but they had managed to get children out of the house involved even though it was booby-trapped.

“Despite the risks involved they got on with the job and helped bring the incident to a successful conclusion.

“Also, people should not forget that last year South Yorkshire did not have the sort of problems other areas had with the riots.

“We have an incredibly dedicated team and crime is coming down.

“Before being appointed to this role, I couldn’t have ever predicted how difficult my first few months in the job would be.

“But at the end of the day, you are the chief constable, and you have to deal with whatever comes your way.”