Thursday, January 31, 2013
A council tax rise which will see people across Norfolk pay about a penny more a day to cover the costs of policing has been agreed.
But Norfolk’s first police and crime commissioner’s proposed £1.965pc council tax hike in the police’s share of council tax bills had to survive an attempted veto.
Stephen Bett, who was elected to the new role in November, said the increase could pay for up to 10 more front-line police staff, but would also go some way to heading off a potential £10m to £20m funding gap which could open up within four years.
Mr Bett told the Norfolk Police and Crime Panel - a panel made up of councillors and independent members which is part of the checks and balances for his new role - that he could have accepted a government offer of a two year council tax reduction scheme grant, which would provide about £598,000 in 2013/14 and 2014/15.
But he says increasing the police element of the council tax will give more stability in the long run when it comes to paying for recurring staff wages.
He said: “I believe that is the soundest financial plan - not only for my first term of office, but longer term. My proposal stems the inevitable slide in reduced officers and frontline personnel in 2013/14.
“We had a plan to reduce officer numbers to 1.520 by the end of this year, but by careful management of the budget have held that at 1,530.
“My proposal continues that level for 13/14 and some more. In fact, I plan to give the chief constable discretion to retain up to 10 more essential frontline personnel to meet the challenges in the vulnerable people’s directorate where we face unprecedented pressure.”
And he also warned that the force could face major pressures in the year’s ahead, with no indication from the government as to levels of grant in the future.
He said: “We face a significant challenge in 2017/18. The budget support reserve will be exhausted and - depending on our planning assumptions and more information from the government on future funding prospects we may face a deficit of between £10m and £20m.”
But councillor Brian Long, representing West Norfolk Council proposed a veto to the increase. He said he would rather see the commissioner take the government money for freezing the council tax.
He said: “It sits very hard with me that we would continue to take more and more from the public purse. I propose we veto it on the basis that the increase is too high.”
However, the vote to veto it was lost and the panel then agreed, by eight votes to four to agree the increase.
The increase will mean a Band D household will pay £200.79 a year towards policing. Council tax bills are also made up of a portion for the county council, other local councils and parish councils.