The county’s police force will have to find £35million worth of savings in the next five years with the very real prospect of job losses and a squeeze on services looming, it’s been warned.
Kent Police has earmarked £2.6m in cuts to staff numbers this year alone although the critical force control room will not face the axe.
New papers submitted to the Kent & Medway Police Crime panel yesterday (February 6) show £7.3m in savings are needed to balance the books in 2024-25.
Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott's office set out measures by which the shortfall will be met.
Along with job losses, there will be a delay to projects across the estate and IT systems as well as extending the vacancy threshold from 11% to 12%.
There will also be similar deficits to plug in 2025/26 until 2028/29, totalling £34.8m.
The papers state: “The force and PCC continually look for opportunities for further ongoing savings.
“Any savings identified during the year that are not required to balance the budget in 2024/25 will be used to support the investment programme over the medium term to reduce the revenue costs of capital.
“Savings of this magnitude will require difficult decisions to be made around staffing levels within the organisation.
“All decisions will be carefully managed to protect the welfare of staff and minimise the impact to frontline policing.”
Mr Scott told panel members that he could not be sure which departments will be affected but decisions will be carried out along "business case" lines in the "safest and most sensible" way.
He told the meeting on February 6: "These are not decisions I want to take but that is the proposal we have in front of us."
Panel member and Gravesham councillor Shane Mochrie Cox warned: "These cuts will have consequences for communities."
He likened Kent's position to "divvying up a shrinking cake".
The force will have to draw on some of its reserves – expected to be around £24m in April this year. About half of that is held in the general reserve with the remainder set aside for specific purposes.
Kent Police runs its service on a budget of around £460m, most of which is funding from central government, the council tax precept and other income streams.
Labour candidate at the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner elections, Lenny Rolles, said: "The current commissioner has been in post for almost eight years. In that time, there have been cuts to neighbourhood policing and officers have been deployed off the front line to support back office cuts.
"The cuts to staffing in the current plan will make this worse and there is little focus on prevention.
"Confidence of residents continues to be low and it is time for a change to restore trust.
"I would expect Kent and Medway to get its share of the 13,000 additional officers Labour would put into communities across the country."
Liberal Democrat spokesman David Naghi, who is a former Crime Commissioner election candidate and an advocate for a greater police presence, said: "In my area, Maidstone and Malling, we are crying out for more police.
"But it looks like Kent Police will have to pick and choose the crimes they attend.
“I am a great supporter of the police but this is getting ridiculous. We need more police officers on the ground, more of the time and that means the government has to cough up the cash."
The panel passed the commissioner's budget for 2024/25.