Police link-up in doubt over scandal costs

Police and Crime Commissioner for Humberside  Keith Hunter
Police and Crime Commissioner for Humberside Keith Hunter

A newly-elected crime commissioner has suggested he is reluctant to enter a strategic partnership with South Yorkshire’s crisis-hit police force owing to its huge potential liabilities after the Rotherham and Hillsborough scandals.

Humberside Police embarked last year on plans to share more services with South Yorkshire Police to counter swingeing cutbacks in funding from Westminster.

But the threat largely faded after police budgets were protected in George Osborne’s Autumn Statement.

Humberside Police and Crime Commissioner Keith Hunter claimed financial pressures on both forces had been relieved and “ever closer union” was no longer a presumption.

Mr Hunter said: “Funding is being cut for Humberside Police, but not to the extent as previously was anticipated. Therefore the requirement to use a strategic partnership to deliver massive savings across both South Yorkshire Police and Humberside has diminished.”

As well as Rotherham and Hillsborough, a new inquiry into the Battle of Orgreave is now on the horizon, with yet more unknown financial implications.

Mr Hunter said: “South Yorkshire Police has its particular problems and some potential financial liabilities on the back of issues that Humberside doesn’t have. My focus is very much on how we deliver the maximum benefit to our communities from those available resources rather than how we save the maximum amount of money.”

Originally Humberside Police had looked to save £13m by collaborating with South Yorkshire Police.

Some reviews into back-office functions are ongoing, but new ones will not start automatically without a good reason, Mr Hunter said.

They would not be “unpicking” joint working arrangements including the shared Special Operations Unit.

South Yorkshire Police –whose failings were the cause of Hillsborough, Britain’s worst sporting disaster – spent £2.1m on legal fees representing former chief constable David Crompton, it emerged earlier this month.

Of the £25m cost of the inquiry, £4.3m came from the police force, with the rest of the bill picked up by the Home Office.

About 400 people, including families of those killed and supporters who were injured, have launched a High Court claim for damages following a jury’s findings of police errors.

The force set aside £11m last year of its £23m reserves “to support any future compensation payments” from Hillsborough and Rotherham.

Lawyers representing 73 child sex abuse victims in Rotherham are seeking compensation from Rotherham Council and South Yorkshire Police, of up to £100,000 each.

Professor Alexis Jay’s report estimated that 1,400 children had been sexually abused in the town between 1997 and 2013, with children as young as 11 subjected to rape, abduction, torture and sex trafficking.

David Greenwood, of the Yorkshire law firm, Switalskis, which is representing the victims, said yesterday he was hopeful the first few cases would be finalised in the next six months.

Victims, he said, were being supported to make complaints to the IPCC which is investigating how the force handled reported child sexual exploitation.