According to reports, the total bill for building a new divisional headquarters in Hull will be an eye-watering £60 million. The initial cost will come in at £29.5 million, but because Humberside Police will have to borrow a large amount of capital, the bill will rise to £60 million. The police authority will also be dipping into reserves to the tune of £6 million, and to add insult to injury, will also have to fund the loan by spending £1.3 million from its operational budget. In other words, money that would have kept more bobbies on the beat.
I have written about this proposed police station before. Initial estimates for building costs came in at £26 million. They then jumped to £33 million, before it was recently announced that due to the current economic climate there are more contractors bidding for less work, therefore costs had ‘reduced’ to £29.5 million. This may sound good, but the police station hasn’t been built yet, and we know the public sector has a reputation for coming in over budget and over time, so I’m not holding my breath.
To give this story some perspective, many years ago a report said the existing custody suite in Queens Gardens station was not fit for purpose and had to be replaced. From replacing cells we arrive at the enormous costs I have outlined.
£60 million gets you a lot of shiny
The artist’s impression of the new building look fantastic. If shiny new buildings could fight crime, I’m sure there wouldn’t be a criminal left on the streets of Hull, but we know buildings don’t fight crime. Yes, we need the buildings to be fit for purpose, but the way Humberside Police Authority has let costs spiral out of control is a damning indictment of its incompetency. Like the majority of police authorities, it is a toothless talking shop that does not properly hold the chief constable to account, nor does it give value for money to taxpayers.
The response from Humberside Police to this story has been quiet. I have tried to contact the press office, but cannot get through to speak to anyone. A journalist I spoke to said the response they got was ’they couldn’t confirm any figures as all the experts are away.’
We hear the police constantly complain that cutting budgets mean fewer bobbies on the beat, yet our report today, and this story proves that by exercising financial prudence reductions can be made. Unfortunately, contracts have been signed and once again taxpayers are out of pocket, so when a new elected police commissioner takes hold of the reins in May next year, there will be very little they can do.
What this story does prove though is the reason why we need elected commissioners to hold the police to account, ensure the public’s priorities are their priorities, and that public money is spent wisely. My sincere hope is that Humberside will get a strong, independent commissioner (not a washed-up party machine has-been) who will do just that.