Specials to be spared cost-cutting axe

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LABOUR politicians are set to reject proposals to axe council tax discounts to volunteer police officers.

More than 130 Special Constables, who put thousands of unpaid hours into front-line policing in Hull, faced losing their 50 per cent council tax rebate under plans being considered by the city council.

The proposal comes two years after the specials’ £1,500 annual “bounty” was withdrawn.

A report by council officers suggests the removal of the bounty hadn’t impacted on the numbers of specials willing to do the job, with numbers set to rise to 131, from 97 last year.

It said: “Humberside Police advised that they saw little change in the number of special constables since the cessation of the discretionary payment, in fact it can be noted from the chart that numbers have risen in 2012/2013.”

It is estimated that the payments will cost the taxpayer up to £16,000.

But former chair of Humberside Police Authority Coun Colin Inglis said he thought “few if any” other councillors would support moves to axe the discount, which he described as a “pittance”.

He said: “It’s a reflection of a community’s thanks for people who are putting in a lot of community effort. It is all very well sending people cards and making nice speeches, but money talks.”

And fellow Labour cabinet member Phil Webster added: “We have discussed this already in our group meetings and it was virtually unanimous that we wouldn’t remove them.”

While councillors look set to retain the discount - which will cost the taxpayer up to £16,000 - they are looking to axe other dispensations in an attempt to bridge a £2.9m funding shortfall from central Government. Cutting or ending exemptions relating to empty properties is expected to reclaim around half the shortfall. The figures show numbers of Specials in Hull have more than doubled since 2004 when they stood at just 52.