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‘Below inflation’ precept would increase number of constables

Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner will put forward a 1.9 per cent increase in the policing part of council tax for consideration by the Police and Crime Panel which will provide for an increase in the number of constables since his election.

Sir Graham Bright said that the proposal would increase by ten the number of local policing constables since his election and ensure no additional burden on taxpayers by keeping the rise below the 2.7 per cent headline rate of inflation despite a 1.6 per cent decrease in Government grant. The increase amounts to six pence per week for a Band D property in 2013/14.

The Commissioner concluded that it would be unwise to accept the council tax freeze grant which has been offered by the Government to encourage all local authorities not to increase their council tax in 2013/14.  This one-off additional government grant (equivalent to a 1% council tax increase) which for Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner would be £0.5m, would have left a £0.5m funding hole in the 2013/14 budget, which could otherwise have returned an extra ten officers to the frontline.

Sir Graham said: “I’ve given careful consideration to the pros and cons of accepting the 2013/14 Council Tax freeze grant. If I were to accept it this would not only lead to a funding gap for next year, but also an even steeper ‘cliff edge’ end to funding the year after next to the tune of some £1.7m in 2015/16. Such a dramatic decrease in budget would either have a profound impact on policing performance in Cambridgeshire or require a far greater increase in council tax in 2014/15 to compensate for the loss. A £1.7m gap equates to the loss of 43 constables, which is unacceptable.

“During my election campaign members of the public told me that they want to see officers out on the streets. I have always said that I want to protect the frontline. This is becoming more difficult with the financial constraints we have here in Cambridgeshire. I needed to listen to what people have told me, balancing their expectations of police visibility with affordability of tax increases and I think this below inflation increase proposal does that.”

The proposal will now go forward to a meeting of the Police and Crime Panel on February 7 when it will decide whether to accept Sir Graham’s recommendation or ask him to submit a revised proposal.

If accepted, the increase will provide a £131.6m budget for policing in 2013/14. This will allow Sir Graham in his new Police and Crime Plan to both combine the achievements driven by the existing Policing Plan and introduce new initiatives highlighted during the election.