Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Martin Surl will ask the Police and Crime Panel to support a ‘modest’ increase in council tax to help the Constabulary deliver what the public wants most.
A detailed report setting out the police spending plans for the next 12 months was today (Wednesday 29 January 2020) emailed to Shire Hall and will be discussed at next week’s Police and Crime Panel meeting.
Of most interest is likely to be Mr Surl’s plan to create a £1m fund within the budget to enable the Constabulary to enhance how the public contacts and communicates with the police. This will embrace the principle that ‘Every crime matters’ – the central theme of the PCC’s new look and updated Police and Crime Plan.
Mr. Surl said, “The Deputy PCC and I meet regularly with the public and have a good understanding of their reasonable expectations of the police.
“They overwhelmingly support the police and recognise that extensive budget reductions have, on occasions, meant the police could not deliver the service people should reasonably expect and deserve. Notwithstanding that, they want to be able to contact the police with ease and they want to see a reasonable attention given to all types of crime.
“My meetings with the Chief Constable, his officers and staff reinforce the view that they daily face demand that outstrips the resources they currently have and this has caused disappointment and workforce anxiety”.
The cost of policing in Gloucestershire is now split almost 50/50 between the Government and local taxation. Taking into account the Government’s contribution, pay rises to the police already granted by the Home Office, inflation and additional cost increases, the local council tax precept must go up by a minimum of 2% to balance the books and prevent further cuts.
Mr. Surl will ask members of the Police and Crime Panel to agree to a 2.7% increase that will enable him to ring-fence £1m which could enable the Constabulary to invest in:
- More call handlers and better training to cope with the growing demands on the force control room
- Better training to help control room staff deal with callers appropriately
- Better technology that will help provide a quicker, more focused service to the public
Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Constabulary, Rod Hansen said, “I too welcome the financial settlement from the Government which I believe our communities and staff respect and deserve. Through some challenging years, we have managed our finances well, we have made good progress in our work and we are in good shape. It’s now important that we now take stock of the opportunities we have and invest this money in areas that will address the issue in a comprehensive way that delivers a service we can all be proud of.”
Mr. Hansen continued: “I also understand and welcome the PCC’s desire to ring fence some of the money raised through council tax to enhance public contact. While I know our staff do everything they can to respond compassionately to the hundreds of thousands of calls and requests for help in person that we receive each year, I know that some colleagues feel that the increasing challenge of keeping on top of demand means they are not always able to deliver the service they strive for.
“Enhancing public contact goes to the heart of our work as we aim to deliver a consistently high quality service. It also accords with the Police and Crime Plan priority of ‘Accessibility and accountability’ which is so important to retain public confidence and for every victim to know that their crime matters to us.”
A 2.7% increase in the part of the council tax bill that goes to the police, works out at around 56p per month for the average householder or just under 2p per day. It is less than inflation and also below the maximum 4% permitted by the Government without the need for a local referendum.
In contrast to some forces who will be forced to use this year’s central grant settlement to pay off debts, Gloucestershire is in a healthy financial position. Prudent fiscal management during the years of austerity has been acknowledged by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Service (HMICFRS).
It means any extra money raised through the council tax can go directly towards improving the local police service.
The PCC will present his report to the next meeting of the Police and Crime Panel at Shire Hall on Monday, 3 February. If the Panel decides not to accept his budget, it is only allowed to reject it once under existing legislation.