GWENT Police had 42 per cent of their annual funding in reserves last year- the highest percentage of all police forces in the UK.

The Home Office have published figures showing the amount of money police forces in the UK have in reserves.

In March 2017, the police collectively held over £1.6 billion in usable resource reserves, which compares to £1.4 billion in 2011. There are wide variations between areas, from Gwent holding 42 per cent of their annual funding in reserves to Northumbria holding under 7 per cent.

The figures show Gwent Police as of March 2017 had 51.2million in reserves, of which 40.3million is earmarked and 10.9million in general funds.

Reserves strategies should make clear how much of the funding held falls into the following three categories: funding earmarked for planned expenditure during the current medium-term financial plan, funding earmarked for specific projects beyond the current planning period and funding held as a general contingency or resource to meet other expenditure needs (for example, insurance).

Minister for policing and the fire service Nick Hurd said: "Police reserves are an important tool for police leaders to fund projects and manage financial risk, but we also need to ensure there is real transparency about how they, as taxpayers’ money, are being used to improve the service delivered to the public.

"I’ve asked PCCs to set out their reasons for holding funds in reserve, so that the public can have a clearer picture of how their money is being spent on policing."

The publication of reserves comes as the UK government confirms its plans to increase police funding by up to £450 million in 2018/19. 

Gwent PCC Jeff Cuthbert said: “Gwent Police has an exceptional history of delivering efficiencies and has consistently been recognised by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Wales Audit Office for its prudent financial planning and the way it provides value for money for the people of Gwent.

"The vast majority of our reserves are committed; earmarked for planned expenditure; specific purposes and important capital projects such as the replacement of our Police Headquarters building, which is no longer fit for purpose and is expensive to run.

"In addition, within our overall committed funds, we have £12m set aside to meet our long-term ‘Private Finance Initiative’ (PFI) contractual commitments relating to one building in the overall Police Estate.  Not all Commissioners in England and Wales have PFI schemes.

"The only unallocated reserve I hold is known as the ‘general reserve’, which is available to meet exceptional policing demand in the event of Gwent Police having to undertake a large-scale investigation or major operation. This amounts to £4 million or 3.3% of my total annual budget.

"These committed funds have been built-up through robust financial planning, over many years, to fund future costs relating to capital items such as Police stations and Police vehicles.  This approach avoids expensive borrowing costs, which would have increased the precept, the amount residents pay through their council tax for policing, further.  At this stage therefore, we have no loans.

"I want to ensure that every pound spent by the Police in Gwent is a pound well spent. Being open and transparent with taxpayers is essential and this is why my office publishes a Reserves and Committed Funds Strategy every year to provide a clear picture and highlight how their money is spent on policing.”