A WARNING has been issued about the tough decisions that lie ahead for a police commissioner as he attempts to balance the books in his first budget.

Barry Coppinger, the Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner, has pledged to protect neighbourhood policing but says it is going to be a busy first few months in the job.

The Middlesbrough councillor says the priorities in the coming weeks include the appointment of a permanent chief constable, setting the force’s budget for the coming year and finalising th Police and Crime Plan.

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He revealed that, under the Government’s funding proposals for the coming financial year, there would be a further cut of almost £1.5million in the grant for Cleveland on top of the reductions over the past two years.

“We cannot ignore the scale of the cuts which policing has had to face—in Cleveland’s case these equate to a £14.7million cash reduction in Government funding over three years…that’s the equivalent of 300 police officers,” he said.

“There has been no choice but to reduce the size of the overall organisation and the drive for savings will have to continue, but, as we move into the New Year, I want to again underline the pledge I made during the Commissioner elections we will retain and continue to develop Neighbourhood Policing, which is the bedrock of ensuring that people are safe on their streets and in their homes.

“It is certainly going to be a very busy period ahead, we face a very tight timescale in setting the budget for the coming financial year and agreeing the Police and Crime Plan for 2013 to 2016.”

Information about ‘Your Force, Your Voice’ and how people can comment on the draft Police and Crime Plan can be found on the Commissioner’s website www.cleveland.pcc.police.uk