Police and Crime Commissioner, Martyn Underhill is urging Dorset residents to take part in a consultation which will help him decide whether to freeze or raise the part of the council tax bill which is used to pay for policing in the county (precept).
Dorset has lost around £18m in funding from central government over the last four years in real terms. Last month, the Chancellor announced that there would be no more cuts to policing, based on the expectation that Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) would raise the policing element of the council tax every year for the next four years to maintain current funding.
Martyn Underhill, Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “Dorset Police is set to lose another £1m this year from government, however with continued efficiency measures and our Strategic Alliance with Devon and Cornwall, the Force will be able to balance the books without a rise.
He continues: “However, many residents are looking for increased services from policing in key areas; we know this from our extensive summer consultation across the county. The Chief Constable has also formally requested that I raise the precept to allow the Force to meet the new challenges facing policing. Significantly, these challenges mirror what the public have told me they want to see delivered. The needs of the public and the Chief Constable’s request can only be achieved by raising the policing element of the council tax.”
A rise of 1.99% would cost a band D householder £3.74 per year – just over 1p per day, but would generate £1,031,374 in revenue – the equivalent of 30 police officers.
If residents were to vote in favour of a rise, this would be invested in three key areas:
· Protecting vulnerable people (eg greater investment in protecting the elderly, in child sexual exploitation investigation and in combating domestic abuse)
· Emerging threats (eg improving capability in catching online cyber criminals)
· Increased public access to police (eg investment in the 101 service, increasing policing digital platforms and online access)
Last year, 67% of residents who completed the consultation were prepared to pay for a rise in the policing element of the council tax. The PCC chose to freeze, as this gave access to a grant from the government of £574,000 and did not place a further financial burden on Dorset residents. This approach allowed police officer numbers to be maintained last year, however, the freeze grant is not available this year.
Martyn Underhill said: “Policing requires constant investment to allow officers to keep up with ever chancing techniques being adopted by criminals. It is also important we balance the needs of the police service with the financial demands on families in Dorset. This small increase would enable the force to invest in three key areas which are of concern to many of us. Please visit www.dorsetpoliceprecept.com to take part in the consultation.”
Following feedback from Dorset residents, the Commissioner will put his precept proposals to the Police and Crime Panel on 4 February 2016 for their comments. Once the Commissioner has listened to their views he will make his final decision with the figure being implemented from 1 April 2016.