THE Home Secretary failed to rule out further cuts to vital crime prevention work, when she met the region’s new elected police chiefs today (Monday, December 3).

Theresa May said the 41 police and crime commissioners (PCCs) would have to await a detailed funding announcement for forces in the week before Christmas.

The ‘community safety fund’ (CSF) - which pays for projects including CCTV cameras, street lighting and tackling gangs - has been slashed by 60 per cent in just two years.

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Speaking after the meeting, Barry Coppinger, Cleveland’s PCC, said: “The Home Secretary was not able to give us any definite answers.

“A lot of the PCCs registered our concerns about the reductions in both the police grant and also the potential for further reductions to the community safety fund.

“If that was to happen, that would have a major impact on valuable projects that are going on in every borough in the North-East and co-operation between local agencies.”

During the meeting, Mr Coppinger also raised:

* Ongoing 20 per cent cuts to the Cleveland force’s overall budget - triggering the loss of 270 officers, by 2015.

* A lack of funds for treating the effects of alcohol abuse - compared with higher sums spent on drug treatment and rehabilitation.

* Growing concerns about illegal money-lending.

Mr Coppinger said: “This lending can draw people into other criminal activity, something I will discuss with the head of the National Crime Agency, when he visits the North-East in the New Year.”

The region’s other PCCs - Ron Hogg (Durham), Julia Mulligan (North Yorkshire) and Vera Baird (Northumbria) - also attended the meeting, but none were available for comment.

The Home Office has repeatedly declined to end the uncertainty about police budgets for next April and beyond, when PCCs will assume control.

The Northern Echo understands that those figures are unlikely to be announced until as late as December 19 or 20, the last day parliament sits before the Christmas recess. However, criticised for the 60 per cent cut to community safety funds, the Home Office has argued PCCs will also control other funding streams, including drug interventions programme grants.

Mr Coppinger was elected on a 15 per cent turnout, on November 15 - in line with the dismal national average - which he blamed on a lack of public understanding.

He has already changed the force's structure by replacing chief executive Stuart Pudney with the secondment of Ed Chicken, Middlesbrough Council's head of community safety.