West Yorkshire Police is to recruit from the general public for the first time in five years after getting approval to raise its share of council tax by 3.6 per cent.
Police and crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson says the force, which has lost around a fifth of its workforce since 2010, will be recruiting around 300 officers over the next year.
It is the fourth of Yorkshire’s forces to announce a recruitment drive in the last week, following a better-than-expected funding settlement from Chancellor George Osborne in November’s spending review announcement.
Local forces nationwide had been expecting cuts of between 25 and 40 per cent, but were instead told their funding would be protected.
It later emerged that they would get a similar level of funding to the previous year if they raised their share of the council tax precept by 1.99 per cent - the maximum allowed without triggering a costly referendum.
West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire Police were both allowed to increase the police share of local council tax bills by a high amount, because they were among the forces that had historically kept council tax low.
The police and crime panel, which scrutinises the crime commissioner, today approved Mr Burn-Williamson’s proposal to increase the precept by 3.6 per cent. This is the equivalent of £5 extra a year for a Band D council tax payer.
The region’s biggest force has had restrictions in place on open recruitment since 2010, along with many others nationwide, as a result of cuts that have seen it lose £140 million from its annual budget.
PCSOs and Special Constables have been able to apply to become Police Constables during this period, but now members of the public are able to apply to join the force.
Mr Burns-Williamson said the extra funding mean Police Community Support Officers (PCSO) numbers will stay at the current level of 565 across West Yorkshire, despite local councils struggling to afford their share of funding.
He said: “Continuing the recruitment of police officers and protecting Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) is crucial for the frontline and safeguarding resources as far as possible. Together with partners we are working ever more closer to make sure this happens.
“We know our communities want to see more officers and staff visible on the streets protecting the most vulnerable as part of our Neighbourhood Policing Teams and response capacity in dealing with emergency and serious incidents.
“Hundreds (around 300) more new police officers can now be recruited over the next year into West Yorkshire Police (WYP) and I am pleased to confirm that Special Constables and PCSOs will also continue to have the opportunity to become full-time police officers with ongoing internal recruitment, as well as opening up for wider recruitment amongst the general public.
“It will also enable real opportunities to increase the diversity of the workforce to better reflect the communities of West Yorkshire that we serve.
“When making the decision to increase the precept, I also considered many public views obtained from my recent Community Conversation survey with 76 per cent indicating they would support an increase of £5 or more and really welcome the Police and Crime Panel’s support for this approach.
“West Yorkshire is an area with some of the greatest policing and community safety needs and yet the government is continuing to allocate money unfairly and is ‘top slicing’ our budget to fund other organisations and policing areas depriving West Yorkshire directly of at least £9m in 2016/17.
“That’s why the outcome of the flawed police funding formula review later this year will be very significant in trying to address this ongoing unfairness to areas like West Yorkshire.”
Earlier this week, two other Yorkshire police forces have announced plans to recruit another 800 officers between them by the end of 2019.
Humberside Police says it will bring in another 300 officers in the next four years, while South Yorkshire Police will recruit a further 500 officers in the same period.
Neighbouring North Yorkshire Police revealed last month that it was to start recruiting again, increasing its manpower from 1,343 to 1,400 officers.