Increase in police precept blamed on Government cuts

Northumbria Police has blamed ‘unprecedented cuts to funding’ after it increased its part of the council tax bill.

Thursday, 7th February 2019, 10:00 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 09:26 am
The police precept is being increased.

The police precept, which is added to council tax bills, could increase by £24 next year for those in council tax band D properties.

Residents will face the increased council tax bills from the next financial year, which starts in April.

The force currently has a precept of £110.33, which it says is the lowest of any police and crime commission.

The Home Office is allowing Police and Crime Commissioners to add £24 to council tax bills for band D homes next year.

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It stated that ‘unprecedented’ Government cuts have already forced the force to slash £142.3million from its budget over the past nine years.

The report said: “The current financial climate remains a difficult and challenging one. The last nine years have seen unprecedented cuts to the funding provided by the Government to Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) in England and Wales.

“By the end of 2018/19 Northumbria will have made £142.3million of cuts and efficiencies to manage the reductions imposed by Government over that period.”

Members of Northumbria’s Police and Crime Panel unanimously voted to approve the rise in the precept on Tuesday saying the force needed the funds.

Sunderland City councillor Kyle Webster said the increase was saving the jobs of 56 police officers.

Panel member Janet Guy said the hike was needed because the force had been ‘living on’ its financial reserves.

She said: “We have been living on our reserves for the last few years, we have them so we have been lucky but it’s not good to live off your reserves.

“We have got to have a sustainable police force that can build, and can improve but you can’t do that with no reserves or living off your reserves, you have to have that income.

“I see nothing good about pushing that on to local tax payers but it is inevitable.”

The force has taken the biggest financial hit of all the forces in England and Wales following both the 2010 and 2015 Comprehensive Spending Review and central funding for policing in Northumbria has dropped by 31% since 2010.

A large proportion of the residents in Northumbria, live in Band A properties, and their actual increase will be £16 per year.

It also accused the Government of expecting council tax payers to pick up the tab for cuts.

“The severe restrictions on funding from Central Government are being delivered with the continued expectation that the shortfall is met locally by tax payers through the precept,” it said.

It argued that raising the precept was the only way to maintain the ‘high standards’ of policing in the area.

A Home Office spokesman defended the department saying it was providing millions of pounds of extra funding across England and Wales.

He said: “We are providing up to £970million of additional funding from government funding and council tax precept, for policing across England and Wales – the largest increase in a decade.  This ensures police have the resources they need to carry out their vital work.

“Northumbria Police funding will increase by up to £18million this year if the Police and Crime Commissioner uses their full council tax flexibility.”

He added: “Decisions about front-line policing and how resources are best deployed in Northumbria are for the Northumbria PCC and Chief Constable.

“We have always been clear that it is for PCCs to decide whether to increase their council tax precept, and by how much.”

Herbert Soden, Local Democracy Reporting Service