‘Held to ransom’: Policing council tax rise agreed to unlock national funding

Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway
Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway

Securing full funding to police Bedfordshire in 2020/21 has been likened to holding police and crime commissioners to ransom and putting a gun to their heads.

“We welcome any extra funding for front line policing,” Bedford Liberal Democrat Newnham councillor Hilde Hendrickx told the county’s police and crime panel.

“But I strongly believe it should come from national government,” she explained.

“It shouldn’t come from a further large increase in the police precept.

“Also it’s unfair of national government to almost hold PCCs to ransom and put a gun to their head as they have to raise the precept to the maximum to get this funding. I don’t think that’s fair.”

Independent panel member Damian Warburton supported her views, saying, “I am appalled to discover tonight (Tuesday) the government has given commissioners an ultimatum to qualify for extra funding.

“We have a government which has a responsibility and duty to protect the public, and it is shirking that and putting the cost of doing so on to local council taxpayers.

“You (the PCC) said in your police and crime plan that Bedfordshire is a special case because of the terrorist threat and being the back door to the capital.

“The cost of the counter-terrorism particularly is not something which should fall on Bedfordshire taxpayers.

“You opened the meeting, commissioner, with a laudable comment that you would happily pay 84p a month for the benefits,” he added.

“That is laudable, but it’s not something everyone can say. There are people for whom small increases represent significant difficulties.

“Even if this panel was to veto your precept, you can come back with a precept of barely any difference, so we can do nothing. We are toothless in that regard.”

Police on the beat

The PCC replied, “I completely understand that an increase of about £10 a year for some people is very difficult.

“Any small increase is painful for those who have to pay it. I don’t think we can ignore the government has promised 20,000 extra police officers.

“That’s something it would be quite wrong for us, in the context of this, to suggest is nothing in providing law and order and protection of the public.

“Albeit you have heard me comment here that 36 officers is not enough for Bedfordshire Police this year.”

Luton Labour Northwell councillor Anne Donelon said, “Nationally it’s still lower than it was.

“When you say there’s another 20,000 police officers, it’s not really up to the level it was before the cuts.”

The PCC said the overall budget would be £122.1m, telling the panel, “The rise is 84p a month, which allows me to recruit 156 officers.

“That’s 100 to replace those which represent our turnover each year, the 20 I had promised this financial year and the 36 which are part of the uplift, which government requires us to deliver to qualify for the core grant promised.”

Panel chairman and independent member Paul Cain said, “I find it absolutely staggering that the government will withhold money already promised, if you don’t implement the full council tax.”

by Local Democracy Reporter, Euan Duncan

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