Gloucestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl is to seek the public’s views on whether or not to put up council tax next year. Businesses and other local organisations are also being canvassed.
Policing in Gloucestershire is funded in two ways, through local council taxes and a grant from the Home Office. However, the Government is not expected to announce how much grant the police will get until just before Christmas which means the research will be carried out against a continuing background of austerity and uncertainty.
Mr. Surl, who as commissioner has to write the police budget, said,
“The Chief Constable made it clear when I rejected her case for a 2% increase last year and froze the precept, that she would be making a similar argument again this year. I will consider that case on its merits whilst getting the public’s views as well.
“Like all public sector bodies, the police have made big cuts in recent years – around £20 million since 2011. For an organisation with a budget of just over £100 million that is a considerable reduction. Those cuts were made against the government’s expectation the deficit would be cleared by now but it’s not worked out that way.”
Among the options being considered are a council tax freeze which would mean the police having to save a further £13m over the next three years; a 2% increase in council tax would reduce the figure to £10m. This is on top of the £5m cut from this year’s budget and savings of £20m for the four years from 2011/12 to 2014/15.
If council tax goes up by two per cent, it would mean around an extra £4 per year on an average Band D property or less than 8 pence per week.
“We have been warned we can expect to be told to save in the region of another £20 million. The problem the Chief Constable and I have is that we won’t be told exactly how much and how until we get the results of the chancellor’s spending review in December and there’s not much time to finalise the budget after that.
“The police are not asking to be a special case but the range of crimes they now have to deal with is wider than ever. Things like child sexual exploitation, people trafficking, online sexploitation and honour based violence were unheard of until fairly recently and it’s the job of the police to protect the public from these and many other things.”
As well as income, the police budget must also take into account pay rises, pegged by the Government at 1% for the next four years, and inflation. Forecasts have been prepared showing the effect of a Council Tax freeze for three years and a 2% increase for the same period.
Mr. Surl said,
“This period of austerity has been tough for many people and it’s not a good time to be asking them to pay more, but there has to be a balance between the needs of the police and the wishes of the public and I have to prepare a budget in that context.”
The consultation process will begin tomorrow (Thursday 1 October) and continue until the middle of November. Groups and organisations being consulted include a representative sample of communities in Gloucestershire; victims of crime; local businesses; the voluntary sector; organisations funded from the Commissioner’s Fund; police officers, staff, and staff associations and other partners
To hear a summary of the police case for an increase in an interview with Deputy Chief Constable Rod Hansen click here