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Police precepts set to rise in two more forces to fund officers

Police precepts across the country look set to rise across the country to fund officer recruitment.

Two more police and crime commissioners have announced public consultations on increasing the local levy included in council tax to pay for extra officers.

Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner launched a public consultation on plans to recruit extra officers on the same day as Dorset’s policing lead went direct to residents with plans for a £1.25 per month increase.

They follow Surrey which has already begun a series of joint roadshows with its PCC and chief constable to lobby the public for funding to recruit extra officers.

Under government rules, any force that wants to increase its funding has to consult with residents and then get the increase signed off by the police minister.

Due to the general election, forces are facing a double dilemma: they do not know what the local government funding settlement would be – and this traditionally would have been settled before Christmas.

It leaves PCCs having to calculate the potential gap between central government grant and costs generated by operational needs including recruiting extra officers.

There is also no indication as to who the new police minister will be for guidance on whether an increase would be signed off.

Government funding increases are also looking less certain: the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has already warned that government borrowing is running at £20bn higher than previous official estimates.

Dorset’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Martyn Underhill, said: “Dorset Police’s annual funding settlement will be announced later than we would expect this year because of the continued disruption in national politics.

“This means myself and the Chief Constable don’t yet know how much central funding will be provided, and PCCs - who have a legal duty to set a precept every year – have not been told what the limit will be. Although this situation is far from ideal, it is essential that I take a prudent approach and make sure the Force is able to deliver a balanced budget,” he said.

“Rather than rush through this important piece of engagement at a later date, I am basing this year’s survey on what the Force currently requires to make ends meet.”

Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner announced a budget consultation with residents to raise its precept to fund more officers to tackle complex crimes such as child exploitation.

Lorne Green is asking the public if they would be prepared to pay extra to enable the force to make the “long-term steps” of tackling complex crimes including child exploitation.

Lorne Green said: “Every year, a large majority of the Norfolk public has supported an increase in the police precept to ensure the Norfolk Constabulary can continue to provide a high-quality service.

“Based on the needs set out by the Chief Constable for Norfolk, and with the support of residents, I have previously continued to raise the police precept to invest in a number of areas identified as priorities by the Norfolk public.”

He explained why the force would need more officers and resources than could be provided through the central government grant.

“Looking forward to the next five years, the risks in our communities and the pressures on Norfolk Constabulary will continue to be very challenging for the police and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk (OPCCN),” he said.

“The increase in some of the most abhorrent and harmful crimes, including domestic abuse, sex offences, child sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation, has also left officers undertaking complex investigations on a frequent basis. This fundamentally changes how the police need to do their business and long-term steps to make our communities and future generations more resilient are necessary.”

Dorset’s Police and Crime Commissioner was more specific; asking residents to pay the equivalent of an extra £1.25 per month for a Band D property to enable the force to recruit 50 new officers.

Mr Underhill said further efficiency savings were needed while meeting service demands and provide support for the new recruits promised by the government.

He added: “In order that the Force can not only maintain that service, but also enhance it with new officers, additional funding is required and I fear this will not come from central government when the settlements are announced.

“I know many families in Dorset are struggling, and I remain immensely frustrated that the financial burden for policing appears to be getting passed to local taxpayers once again. I will continue to demand a fairer settlement for Dorset Police, which remains one of the lowest funded forces in the country.”

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