A police commissioner has been warned she will face closer financial monitoring after setting the largest rise in the police element of council tax in living memory.
North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan said a decision by the county’s Police, Fire and Crime Panel to set a precept increase of just under ten per cent – of £22.95 in 2019/20 for a Band D property – gave the force a chance to “redress the balance” towards community policing.
Mrs Mulligan was reappearing before the panel after becoming the country’s only commissioner to have a force’s budget vetoed, due to what the panel said was uncertainty over how taxpayers’ money would be spent.
She told the county’s Police, Fire and Crime Panel she could not give assurances over how all of the council tax would be spent because the chief constable had operational independence.
After several panel members said they were uncomfortable with the scale of the precept rise, Mrs Mulligan replied: “I am a Conservative and I don’t believe in high taxation either.
“The question is how does the chief constable balance the needs of local communities with the high harm stuff that’s going on that most people don’t see?”
Panel members emphasised that it was with reluctance that they would approve the precept rise, but that they had been appeased by fresh details given by the commissioner, such as a pledge to have the highest number of police officers in North Yorkshire for a decade by April next year.
Member Paula Stott said the commissioner had initially given the panel “very sparse information on which to make very difficult and important decisions”, but the revised proposal “treats us with more respect”.
After the meeting, the panel’s chairman Councillor Carl Les, the leader of North Yorkshire County Council, said: “We have considerably more information than we had two weeks ago, which is why we exercised the veto.
“Two weeks ago we just couldn’t find enough evidence to justify what is the largest police precept rise in living memory.
“We accept that there is a need for more funding into the police service and that the Home Office has set up a device whereby it is local people who have to pay for that increase, so we are prepared to go along with it, but we are also going to step up our monitoring of how the police commissioner spends the money and where she’s making the savings that need to go alongside the extra precept that she’s raising.”
Government spending cuts have seen North Yorkshire Police’s budget fall by more than £25m since 2010 and figures published last month by the Office for National Statistics showed crime in the county had risen by five per cent above the national average in the 12 months to September.