Police ‘will have to raise council tax to bridge new funding gap’, says Yorkshire commissioner

Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire Alan Billings.
Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire Alan Billings.
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Police commissioners have been told they will have to raise their share of council tax by the maximum level allowed if their budgets are to match last year’s.

The Government today published the provisional police grant settlement after Chancellor George Osborne promised to protect forces’ budgets in the comprehensive spending review announcement.

North Yorkshire PCC Julia Mulligan

North Yorkshire PCC Julia Mulligan

Mr Osborne’s announcement came as a surprise to cash-strapped police bosses, who had expected to be making cuts of up to 40 per cent of their budgets.

Despite the pledge, police and crime commissioners were today told that they will need to raise the council tax precept by two per cent, the maximum level allowed without the need for a costly referendum, to match their totals from last year.

The statement also only provided a settlement for 2016/17, meaning forces cannot plan for beyond the next financial year.

Dr Alan Billings, PCC for South Yorkshire, whose force will get £189 million in annual funding, said: “In his statement in November the Chancellor said that the police grant for next year would be the same as this.

“However, we now learn first that the grant is reduced by almost £1m and second that we are expected to raise additional funding by increasing the charge to council tax payers by the maximum permitted.

“This settlement allows nothing for inflation, including increasing demands on the force and pay awards, which will have to be found either by putting up council tax or making further

savings or both.

“Over the coming weeks we shall continue to look for savings while talking to district council leaders and the public about what we can bare locally. Our overall commitment to defend neighbourhood policing will be the top priority.”

Julia Mulligan, PCC for North Yorkshire, said the £77 million in funding for her force for 2016/17 was only a little lower than this year, adding: “This is good news and a much better deal than was expected.”

But she said: “There is however a lot of detail to be assessed before we know the full picture. And of course revisions to the funding formula, the method by which the government carves up the total policing budget, remain unclear.

“The news today also assumes that I will put up the policing element of council tax by approximately two per cent.

“I will be consulting the public on this shortly, especially given that we need to protect frontline services as well as find additional resources to tackle important issues such as domestic abuse and the exploitation of children.

“But all in all, I am pleased the Government has put its money where its mouth is by giving us a fair settlement.

“North Yorkshire Police is hugely valued by the public and I’d like to say thank you to them, especially at this time of year when we enjoy ourselves and the police work round the clock to keep us safe.”

Humberside PCC Matthew Grove said the level of funding for his force would remain around the same.

He said: “The detail we have been provided with today clearly shows the Government has been true to their word and protected police funding not just nationally, but locally as well.

“This is very welcome news for residents of East Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire. Our challenge now is to continue to modernise policing and drive efficiencies so that we are able to confront the ever-changing and significant threats to our communities.

“Humberside Police has achieved substantial savings since 2010 and continues to undergo a major programme of change to provide the best service to our residents with the resources we have available.

“Early forecasts that we faced a 25 to 40 per cent cut in budgets for next year have been proved wrong and the Chancellor was correct when he said that the police protect us so we must protect the police.”

Policing Minister Mike Penning said: “This police funding settlement represents a fair deal for the police and reinforces this Government’s commitment to protect the public. No Police and Crime Commissioner will face a reduction in cash funding next year.

“On top of this protection of overall police spending, counter terrorism police funding will increase in real terms to £670m in 2016/17 and transformation funding will be used to develop specialist capabilities to tackle cyber crime and other emerging crimes and to enable a major uplift in firearms capability and capacity.

“The settlement also includes extra investment to continue the job of police reform. But it is not a reprieve from reform, it does not let forces off the hook or allow them to slow the pace of change.

“Every force will still need to make savings years on year by putting an end to wasteful and inefficient spending.”