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Surrey Police board, union slam mayor for ‘erroneous’ budget deficit claims

Brenda Locke standing firm on claim Surrey Police Service is running $26M-plus deficit budget
Surrey Police patch from Twitter Brenda Locke photo by Anna Burns

The Surrey Police Board and Surrey Police Union are taking Mayor Brenda Locke to task for “erroneously” claiming the Surrey Police Service is running a deficit budget over $26 million but Locke is standing by that claim.

“They are running a deficit budget, $26 million-plus deficit budget,” she told the Now-Leader on Jan. 17. “Those aren’t my numbers, those are the numbers we get from our accounting department at city hall. They have been told about it, they know about it, the SPS know about it. I told them in August, “stop spending, stop hiring. They didn’t. So then we told them again in December, no more hires. And they went ahead and hired anyway.”

The City of Surrey issued a statement from Locke on Jan. 16 that states council in early 2023 approved the SPS budget at $48.7 million. “At the end of 2023, SPS had spent $75.4M, resulting in a massive budget overrun of $26.7M. Put another way, the SPS’s out of control spending in 2023 was 55 per cent higher than what they were approved to spend,” Locke said.

“Rather than working within the budget that was approved by the City, SPS made expensive hires that it could not afford, including up to 100 people on payroll that are not deployed on the frontline. In other words, Surrey taxpayers are paying for SPS officers that are not deployed to keep Surrey safe. The SPS has continued its unauthorized hiring in 2024.”

The SPB then issued its own press release, with a statement from the board’s provincially-appointed administrator Mike Serr that “clarifies facts on Surrey Police Service costs.”

READ ALSO: Surrey mayor tackles furor over SPS recruits not getting paid

The SPB press release says that with Locke as chairwoman of the board it submitted a 2023 budget of $157.6 million to the city and during 2023, “on the basis of plans to eliminate the SPS and return to the RCMP, the city reduced this budget to $48.8 million for 2023 – a cut of 70 per cent.

“With the decision by Minister Farnworth in July 2023, and the subsequent amendments to the Police Act that require the transition to be completed, Surrey Police Service officials worked with city officials to arrive at a budget of $75 million to carry SPS through to the end of 2023,” Serr is quoted in the press release. “Continuing her fight to ignore the provincial decision and requirements of the new Police Act, the mayor refused to provide formal approval of the agreed to budget and is now misrepresenting this as ‘overspending’ in relation to her 70 per cent cut. Regardless of this cut, SPS will close the year under the $75 million budget.”

“The transition is legally bound to continue,” he added. “This means that the SPS budget will continue to increase, as the RCMP detachment’s budget needs will decrease. It is inappropriate to suggest that the continued hires and associated budget is a burden on taxpayers, just as it is unfair to refuse to pay these officers.”

Rick Stewart, president of the Surrey Police Union, also released a statement on Jan. 16 “following budget misinformation released by Mayor Brenda Locke earlier today.”

“The Surrey Police Union (SPU) is expressing significant concern over the dissemination of inaccurate information by Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke that is being used to sow confusion among residents and undermine the credibility of Surrey Police Service (SPS), the Surrey Police Board, and our dedicated members,” Stewart charged.

Stewart said the 2023 policing budget for Surrey was “initially formulated under the assumption” the Surrey RCMP would remain the city’s police of jurisdiction, with the SPS discontinuing its operations by July 2023. “Consequently, SPS operated with an incomplete budget, covering approximately half of the fiscal year. Following Minister Farnworth’s decision to proceed with the policing transition, the City of Surrey refused to adjust the budget to reflect staffing and transition planning.”

“It is patently unfair of Mayor Locke to grossly underfund SPS and then criticize for running a deficit when the total budgeted amount for policing is in surplus,” Stewart charged.

Coun. Linda Annis also weighed in with a press release issued Jan. 17 in which she charges that Locke, by not moving ahead with the revised SPS budget, “created an accounting issue on paper.”

“Because council did not move ahead with the revised SPS budget, the third quarter showed the RCMP had a positive variance of some $27 million, while the SPS had a negative variance of $23.4 million. Meanwhile, the total police budget showed a third quarter positive overall variance of nearly $4 million. The fact is that as the budget for the SPS grows, the budget for the RCMP has to be reduced.”

About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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