Frustrated PCC says council tax increase could be only option in face of more cuts

A rise in council tax could be the only way to protect policing in Bedfordshire, the Police and Crime Commissioner has said.

By Connie Primmer
Thursday, 19th December 2013, 9:03 am
Olly Martins.
Olly Martins.

Olly Martins made the statement following the Provisional Police Funding Announcement yesterday.

The force now has to save £8.5 million in the next two years compared to the £7.5 million it was expected to save previously.

Mr Martins said: “We are still being held to ransom by the current situation regarding the amount of council tax people can pay towards policing, which is effectively capped at a 2 per cent rise by the need to hold a referendum if a higher increase is proposed.

“I do not relish increasing people’s council tax but the amount would be modest, many people tell me they are prepared to pay more for policing and the government leaves me with little other option. So we need the detail around any precept flexibility to be made clear as soon as possible in the New Year, as this is a critical element to our budget making decisions, which need to be taken by the end of January.”

In the summer HM Inspector of Constabulary reported that Beds Police is “a financially vulnerable force”.

Mr Martins said the government is still considering whether the force’s needs are significant enough for more money to be raised locally.

Mr Martins expressed frustration that some of the policing budget was being reallocated to other areas such as the expansion of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) which will get £18 million.

A Police Innovation Fund will be established next year, funded by £50 million from the Police Main Grant.

This is intended to provide PCCs with “the opportunity to submit bids on initiatives that will promote collaboration” such as partnerships with other forces, emergency services and local government.

It is also intended to help PCCs improve their use of digital working and technology to help improve efficiency in their police force’s future operations.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) will be given £9.4m from the police settlement to fund a new annual programme of force inspections.

The Minister of State for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims, Damian Green, said this will enable the public to see how well their force is performing when it comes to cutting crime and providing value for money.

Mr Martins said: “It’s not new money, simply recycled money and frankly I would rather see most of it in the county’s police budget paying for frontline policing. That is certainly what the public tell me they want to see.”