Warning as police body agrees tax freeze

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Yorkshire’s largest police authority has agreed to freeze council tax bills from April, but immediately warned the decision will create a black hole in the budget to fight crime in future years.

West Yorkshire Police Authority announced yesterday it would be accepting a Government grant to make sure taxpayers contribute no more to policing in 2012-13 than they do now.

The grant is only available for one year, however, which means West Yorkshire’s first police commissioner, due to be elected in November, will have to make deeper cuts or raise tax when setting the force’s budget for 2013-14.

The decision came as South Yorkshire Police Authority voted to reject the funding and raise its precept by almost four per cent.

Although both authorities face deep cuts, they agreed to find money to recruit frontline staff – 40 officers in West Yorkshire and 130 in South Yorkshire.

The region’s two other police authority set budgets earlier this week. North Yorkshire voted to accept the grant and freeze its precept, but Humberside decided to raise bills by almost four per cent.

The chairman of West Yorkshire Police Authority, Mark Burns-Williamson, said its £411.7m budget – a 5.4 per cent cut – had been “a difficult one to set”.

“We did not consider it to be the right time to put an additional burden on the council tax payer at a time of general pay restraint and those on fixed incomes in the community,” he said.

“It does create a further funding gap within the base budget from 2013-14 onwards though.”

South Yorkshire Police Authority set a £251m budget for next year, including £11m drawn from its reserves.

Chairman Charles Perryman said: “By combining our reserves with an increase in council tax, we will now be able to provide more than 130 extra frontline policing staff across South Yorkshire next year.

“This will support the authority’s long-term strategy of maintaining visible police presence and emergency response times.”