When policing Minister Nick Hurd announced a new £970m funding settlement for hard-pressed forces last year, the offer came with a considerable sting in the tail – more than half of the money was to be raised through local Police and Crime Commissioners imposing higher council tax bills.
The impact of that policy, allowing commissioners to charge an extra £24 per year to the average household through the police precept element of council tax, is now playing out in this region, where politicians on the North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Panel have vetoed a planned increase of 10.3 per cent put forward by local PCC Julia Mulligan.
The panel has demanded more information on what the extra money would be used for and a revised proposal, while Ms Mulligan has responded by saying her “crystal clear” plans for the rise would allow North Yorkshire Police to hire an additional 50 police officers and 20 PCSOs – bringing the force close to staffing levels last seen pre-austerity in 2010; a laudable plan by any stretch of the imagination.
While it is understandable that the panel is anxious to ensure increasingly hard-pressed households receive value for money, it is important to consider the context of the proposals. The maximum £24 increase is also due to be adopted by each of the South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and Humberside forces – with percentage increases of 14 per cent in the first two areas and 12 per cent in the latter.
Each regional police commissioner has expressed regret at being put in an invidious position, suggesting that such large rises will not be repeated in future years whilst adding that implementing the increases is vital to deliver more effective forces.
With North Yorkshire particularly affected by complex and resource-intensive issues such as rural crime and ‘county lines’ drug dealing networks, its force cannot afford to be left behind.