£2.5 million overspend

JUST a week after Cambridgeshire s chief constable called for more Government money, the police authority s auditors have criticised the force for a £2.5 million overspend on last year s budget. The authority was unable to maintain spending within budget

JUST a week after Cambridgeshire's chief constable called for more Government money, the police authority's auditors have criticised the force for a £2.5 million overspend on last year's budget.

"The authority was unable to maintain spending within budget for 2006/7," says the report. "The expected outturn overspend is considered to be significant."

Accountants Pricewaterhouse Cooper says although improvements have been made over the year- raising their overall assessment from inadequate to an adequate rating- they are concerned the overspend was not tackled in time.

"Whilst we are supportive of the actions the authority and force undertook to reduce the overspend- for which credit has been awarded- it is a concern that these matters were not identified and action taken to mitigate the overspend until mid way through the 2006/7 year," says their report.

The firm was due to present it annual report to the authority yesterday (Thu) and says the overspending resulted from two major areas:

# Significant police overtime on a number of murder investigations

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# Errors in relation to funding pensions which the police authority wrongly believed would be paid by the Government but in reality were their responsibility.

The report concludes that the authority's financial performance has been varied over the past year.

"Whilst improvements have been noted ......the authority has not maintained spending within budget," says Pricewaterhouse Cooper.

"The predicted outturn for 2006/7 is a significant over spend which was not expected when the budget was set. Therefore the improvements the authority have made have been offset against its deterioration in performance.

"It will be important for the authority to maintain its spending within budget for 2007/8 as well as continuing to assess and monitor the reserves it requires and needs."

There is also criticism of the police authority's internal control which the auditors describe as inadequate after noting "significant control weaknesses within the key financial systems."

The auditors also note that overtime costs for Cambridgeshire Police "are the highest amongst its 'most similar force group'. Whilst new procedures have been introduced to reduce overtime costs, this is commensurate with a recent decline in performance levels."

And they also criticised the centralised power the chief constable has over spending, noting there was a "lack of scheme of delegation within the force, i.e. from chief constable to basic command units and departments."

However Pricewaterhouse Cooper says that whilst issuing "a qualified conclusion for 2006/7, this is an improvement on the prior year when we issued an 'adverse' use of resources conclusion. The change in our conclusions reflects the improvements that the authority and force have made in a number of areas over the last year.

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