Meeting told that voting on Police council tax precept is a “farce”

Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel, 7 February 2024, held at Dunstable Community Fire Station. Image: LDRS

A member of the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel has claimed the vote on increasing the Bedfordshire Police precept was a “farce”.

During its meeting last week (Tuesday, 6 February) the Panel had three voting options for the proposed £13 (Band D) increase.

It could approve the proposed precept, it could approve the precept with recommendations, or it could veto.

If the proposed increase was vetoed the police and crime commissioner would have to present a revised budget to the Panel in two weeks, but this one couldn’t be vetoed.

Councillor Steve Moore (Luton Borough Council) asked: “Were it to be vetoed obviously it has to come back, is there a minimum amount it has to be changed, is it literally one penny?

Jeremy Welch, senior democratic services officer, replied: “I’m not sure if that has been tested,

“But reportedly, yes it can just be a penny.”

Phil Wells, chief financial officer with Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC), said: “Every one pound that you go lower than £13 is a reduction of £250,000 [in the budget].”

Which, he added, is the equivalent of six to seven officers.

The Panel was told the £13 (Band D) increase is the maximum allowed without holding a referendum.

But even wih this increase, the chief constable would still need to make savings to try to maintain the current level of service being provided.

The police and crime commissioner, Festus Akinbusoye, added that the majority of those who took part in the budget survey voted for the increase.

“Why should they be ignored,” he asked.

The Panel heard that 1274 people completed the survey, an increase of 133 per cent from last year.

721 people voiced their support, 191 voiced that they were neutral, and 362 people didn’t support the proposal.

The OPCC budget report stated: “Of those that expressed a preference 1083, 67 per cent, voiced their support for the increase in precept.”

Seven panel members vetoed the increase, but two thirds of the panel (11 members) were needed for a veto to be carried.

The proposed £13 (Band D) a year increase was approved with recommendations by the Panel.

Councillor Gareth Mackey (Central Bedfordshire Council) said: “An approval with recommendations is being put through by a minority of members.

“So if seven people on this committee have voted to veto, 53 per cent of the people sitting around here effectively have voted to not accept this precept.”

Councillor Pat Hamill (Central Bedfordshire Council) said: “What’s the point of voting for a precept when it’s going to happen anyway.

“It seems like it’s a farce,” he said.

Panel chair, Mr Paul Downing, said: “This is about police and crime panels all over the country having really a non-decision decision to make.

“This is worthy of noting,” he said.

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter

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