Editor’s comment: Why hasn’t police cash been spent?

Ballie Ballerson in Curtain Road shown in a file image of Shoreditch nightlife. Picture: Polly Hanco

Ballie Ballerson in Curtain Road shown in a file image of Shoreditch nightlife. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Local government has no money.

It’s the reason progressive town halls make cuts that hit disadvantaged people. It’s the reason council tax goes up. It’s the reason hundreds of thousands of workers across the UK have lost their jobs since 2010.

But sometimes there are good reasons for local authorities to sit on unspent cash – or, at least, bad reasons beyond their control.

For instance, as regular readers of this column will know, the government swathes Right to Buy receipts in so much red tape that councils have to find innovative ways to, basically, give them away.

And sometimes levies paid by developers can’t be spent until associated projects are complete, or are saved up so they can be pooled together for bigger works. These are the facts behind misleading headlines you may have seen elsewhere in the press over the last couple of years about councils including Hackney sitting on piles of money.

Sometimes, however, it’s hard to see the justification in failure to spend money raised for public use.

So it is with the levy imposed on Hackney’s night-time economy a year ago, amid a chorus of dissent, with the argument that it would help pay for crime prevention. Since 2010, Hackney has lost one in four of its police officers: if you recognise that statistic, it’s because the council plastered it on billboards all over the borough as part of its “Foot the Bill” campaign in 2017 and 2018.

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So why on earth, more than 12 months on, has none of the £290,000 set aside for police wages been spent? And why has a mere £170,000 been earmarked in future budgets for extra officers when MOPAC could conceivably finish 2019 with nearly £600,000 in the pot from the two years combined?

Police constables start on a little over £22,000. Even covering a range of different ranks, £290,000 could pay for a lot of resources. So what gives?