West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Bob Jones has set an increase of 3% in the policing precept in 2013-14, the part of the Council Tax that goes to policing. The current Band D policing precept is £99.45, which will rise to an estimated £102.43.
This is equivalent to a few pence a week more for policing in 2013-14 council tax bills, in order to put the Force on a more sustainable financial footing given unfair government cuts, pay for investment in new technologies and return more officers to the streets of the West Midlands.
Bob Jones said, “I am committed to keeping the policing precept as low as possible. Although this increase will cost households a few pounds a year extra, it will release 100 officers to operational frontline duties. By recruiting police staff to roles currently carried out by a mixture of police officers and police staff (roles that do not require the full powers of a police constable), the funding will help to maintain current service levels in service areas that do require police powers. This enables the serving police officers in these roles to be re-allocated to more operational duties. The new police staff posts will also provide redeployment opportunities for existing police staff who would otherwise be made redundant, thereby saving recruitment and redundancy costs.”
In order to minimise the burden on taxpayers, Bob will also be drawing down £25-£30 million from the Force’s reserves to support “invest to save” capital schemes and projects such as new more efficient custody facilities.
Speaking about his 2013-14 budget, Bob said, “Prudent financial management has enabled this efficient use of reserves. There is a need to invest in key areas of infrastructure to enable lower cost solutions to be implemented, such as exiting expensive city centre lease arrangements, releasing significant revenue savings in the future. By ending a number of expensive building leases, I will reduce the cost of the police estate, thereby saving further taxpayer money, and assist in the sustainability of existing police stations.”
In agreeing this increase, Bob has rejected the offer of a one off 1% government grant for freezing the policing precept. Bob said, “The government’s meagre offer of a 1% grant if the precept was frozen doesn’t deal with the challenges the West Midlands faces. If I were to have accepted a further freeze grant for 2013/14 and 2014/15, in addition to those taken in the past, it is estimated that by 2015/16, when the freeze grant would no longer be paid, there would have to be a precept increase in the order of 10% to replace the ‘lost’ spending power. I do not believe that is a prudent and responsible approach to take and action should be taken as soon as possible to establish a stable resource base.”
He added, “The Government’s offer was little more than a payday loan, just putting off the difficult decisions for a short while, and not addressing the underlying problems. This modest increase – which is much less than the 5% the government said we could have increased by – is a sound and sustainable approach to ensuring effective and efficient policing in the West Midlands”
Bob will passport Community Safety Funding that previously went to local authorities directly back to local areas. He wants to see the development of community led Local Policing and Crime Boards that will set local priorities, allocate funds, and hold local policing and community safety activity to account. These local boards will build on the existing statutory Community Safety Partnerships that already exist in each local authority area. In all, nearly £7 million will be passported back to local areas to address local community safety priorities.
In line with overall budget reductions, the cost of the office that supports the PCC will fall too, declining from £1.991m in 2012-13 to £1.884m in 2013-14, a 5.4% reduction that’s worth over £100,000. This reduction is in accordance with Bob’s manifesto commitment to ensure that the cost of the office of the PCC is lower than that of the outgoing Police Authority.