Referendum risk may be taken in a bid to break out of the budgets freeze

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POLICE forces are funded through a mixture of Government grants and money raised locally through a precept added to council tax bills.

But while police commissioners have the power to raise extra money by increasing the precept they are subject to limits set by Ministers.

Like local authorities, commissioners who froze their precept this year were promised funding equivalent to a one per cent rise for this year and next from the Government.

Those who chose to raise their precept had to do so within a two per cent limit, or £5 for those with historically low precepts, or put their spending plans to a local referendum.

The costs associated with holding a referendum and the likely negative response from the public have so far deterred any council or commissioner from challenging the cap.

Humberside commissioner Matthew Grove and Julia Mulligan of North Yorkshire chose to freeze their council tax precepts for this financial year but their counterparts in South and West Yorkshire opted for rises.

Council tax payers in a band D house in the Humberside Police area now pay £173.12 a year towards policing while the figures are £135.50 in West Yorkshire, £204.55 in North Yorkshire and £142.55 in South Yorkshire.

There are already signs that tensions over funding could come to a head next year with Eric Pickles promising to tighten the rules on council tax, precept and levy rises to make sure local bodies cannot get around his two per cent cap.

This year, seven local authorities in the region chose to reject the Government’s “freeze grant” with many warning that without long- term guarantees they were eroding their ability to raise income from their local tax base.

The number represented a significant jump from just two the year before and more are likely to follow suit in 2014.

And with more councils holding elections in 2014 – when it would be more cost-effective to hold referendums – and police, fire and local authority budgets under increasing strain there will be a temptation to call the Government’s bluff and break the cap rather than imposing hugely unpopular cuts to services.