PCC says Council Tax increase will pay for 17 new police officers

Bedfordshire's Police and Crime Commissioner Festus Akinbusoye Image: Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner
Bedfordshire's Police and Crime Commissioner Festus Akinbusoye. Image: Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner

The maximum increase allowed for the policing precept part of council tax has been agreed by the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel.

Bedfordshire’s police and crime commissioner (PCC), Festus Akinbusoye told the panel yesterday (Tuesday) that he has to ensure that Bedfordshire Police is adequately resourced to meet operational demands while also delivering a balanced budget.

“This is why I seek the full backing of the panel today in supporting my proposed increase in police precept, which is equivalent to 28 pence per week for a band D property,” he said.

“I very much recognise the impacts of the cost of living crisis and the challenges this will create for many of our residents.

“This is the reason why this precept level is below the current level of inflation,” he said.

The £15 (28p a week) annual increase for a band D property is also the maximum allowed without the need for a public referendum, which was a point raised by councillor Gareth Mackey (Central Bedfordshire).

“You [the PCC] mentioned the £15 that you are looking for is below inflation, I think you made quite a lot of that,” he said.

“It’s quite clear that the force needs considerably more but it’s not worth risking what can be a costly and uncertain referendum on this.

“What would you like to have gone to the public with had you had the certainty of a yes answer,” he asked.

The PCC replied: “There is a growing trend where central government is requiring more and more of the funding for police to come from locally generated revenue.

“I can’t put a figure on that councillor Mackey, I’m sure that was not a trick question, but I know for a fact that we are very, very short of where we need to be.”

The chief constable, Trevor Rodenhurst, said: “Were we not to have the support in terms of the £15 I would have to look at what levers I can pull to reduce service in some levels and maintain it in other places.

“What the commissioner’s proposed allows me to be able to move some resources so that we can sustain the existing service and improve it in other areas,” he said.

The PCC said the 2023/24 increase would allow the chief constable to add 10 additional community policing officers, and seven more victim engagement officers to help improve investigations and the protection of vulnerable people as they go through the criminal justice system.

There will also be four more analysts to provide intelligence analysis for the chief constable to better cut crime and keep Bedfordshire “safer”, and two additional staff members to the Professional Standards Departments.

“The chief constable [also] wants to be able to mainstream the two mental health nurses who now work in our force control room,” the PCC said.

“They contribute to helping the police better manage mental or health-related calls from the public.

“Let me take this opportunity to reassure residents, and the panel, that this increase is not simply a spend, spend, spend budget.

“The force will be making efficiency servings of £5.3 million in this coming financial year and using £500,000 from reserves in order to deliver a balanced budget.

“While also delivering on the public’s policing priorities as outlined in last year’s consultation,” he said.

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter