West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Bob Jones has set an increase of 1.99% in the policing precept in 2014-15, the part of the Council Tax that goes to policing. The current Band D policing precept is £102.43, which will rise to an estimated £104.47.
This is less than the 3% increase Bob proposed, consulted on, and was initially approved by the independent Police and Crime Planel – thanks to the imposition by the government of a cap that would have required a referendum if the increase was 2% or above.
Speaking about the increase, Bob said,
“The government’s decision to impose a 2% referendum cap on increases in the policing part of Council Tax bills has added to the already unfair financial constraints on West Midlands Police.
“My original proposal had been to increase the precept by 3%, but the government’s referendum cap means that this was not possible without a costly and wasteful referendum of all voters among the 2.8 million people in our area. The increase will be 1.99% instead, taking it up to £104.47 for an average household. We continue to have the second lowest precept in the country by a large margin. I’d have to increase the precept by 40% to over £140 to take it up to the next lowest.
“Because of our low precept, the flat rate cuts to the police grant from government have hit us much harder than elsewhere. Over four years we’ve seen a quarter cut from the grant that makes up 88% of our funding.
“In contrast, low crime Surrey, with a precept double ours at over £200 a year, raises 48% of its funding from its high local tax. Therefore they’ve seen a 25% cut to 52% of their funding, while we’ve seen a 25% cut to 88% of our funding. The cuts here are therefore almost twice as deep as low crime Surrey. It’s no coincidence they’ve got more police officers now than in 2010, while we’re only just about to restart recruitment after a five year hiatus.
“I had sought to cushion this latest blow to policing in the West Midlands with a moderate increase of 3% in the precept, but was denied this option by the government’s one-size-fits-all approach. The increase in the police part in Council Tax bills will not be 5p per week as planned, but will be 3p per week.
“The 1.99% increase, coupled to careful use of reserves, means that the recruitment of 450 police officers and 100 staff to release existing officers for duties that the community value most, can still go ahead. However, reserves can only be used once and the breathing space they afford us must be used to address the long-term disparity between increasing expectations and the grossly unfair financial position the West Midlands suffers.”