Local taxpayers to fund policing boost, worsening North-South divide, critics warn

Funding a boost to policing through inflation-busting rises on council tax precepts will only exacerbate a north-south divide, critics have warned.

Local taxpayers to fund policing boost, worsening North-South divide, critics warn

Policing Minister Nick Hurd today announced a new funding settlement for forces worth up to £970m in 2019/20.

However, £500m of it will come from allowing Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to raise their local council tax precept contributions by up to £2 a month for a typical Band D household.

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And with council tax bandings based on historic house prices, it will raise more per head in affluent areas, such as the South East, than in the North’s urban centres.

The precept rises, if imposed in full, would represent increases of between 10 and 15 per cent across Yorkshire, depending on the current level in each of its four forces.

West Yorkshire’s PCC Mark Burns-Williamson said the trend worsened an existing unfairness in the way forces were funded.

He said: “Areas like West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, West Midlands, Merseyside and South Yorkshire tend to lose out more compared to areas like your Surreys and your Sussexes and your southern, leafy shires.

“Clearly they’ve got their own priorities to tackle but you will find that they are able to raise a lot more through their local precept.”

Mr Burns-Williamson, who also chairs the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners. said he knew many people wanted to see an investment in policing and was minded to impose the maximum possible precept increase in West Yorkshire, subject to consultation.

But he said it would “be particularly unwelcome news to those already struggling to pay their bills”.

Mr Hurd said he was announcing the settlement at a “time of real pressure on police”.

He said officers were “bearing down on the worst spike in serious violence and knife crime that we have seen in a decade”.

Mr Hurd said the settlement included an extra £161m in Government grants, which will see every force’s funding “protected in real terms”.

A further £150m will be available to pay into police pension pots, after force chiefs sounded the alarm that they may have to cut staff to meet the cost of increased contributions.

Humberside’s Labour PCC, Keith Hunter, who had warned his force could lose 200 officers if nothing was done, welcomed the news. He said it “appears the Government have listened to the intense lobbying from all Police and Crime Commissioners and Chief Constables across the country”.

North Yorkshire’s Conservative Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, Julia Mulligan, also welcomed the decision to fill the pensions “funding gap in the short-term”, but warned that “significant financial challenges remain”.

She said the "financial position is only improved if the local precept is raised" and that she would soon begin a public consultation on the issue.

Meanwhile, local authorities will also be able to increase council tax by up to three per cent, Communities Secretary James Brokenshire announced.

He said: “Local residents will continue to be protected and be able to approve or veto any excessive rise in a referendum.”

Andrew Gwynne MP, Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, said: “Shifting the burden on to council tax payers creates a postcode lottery.”