Would you pay about the cost of a chocolate bar extra in council tax a month to stop cuts to Warwickshire Police?

Residents are being asked to have their say on whether they would be prepared to be slightly more in council tax to prevent Warwickshire Police having to make 'significant savings'.

Tuesday, 31st December 2019, 5:36 pm
Updated Tuesday, 31st December 2019, 5:36 pm
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The chance to give your feedback is part of Warwickshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe's annual consultation on the policing budget.

Residents are being given three choices: one is a 4.99 per cent increase in council tax to meet growing costs, one is an increase above 4.99 per cent to invest in new technology and infrastructure and the final option is no increase - which would see the police having to make 'significant savings'.

Previous council tax increases have helped the commissioner to fund:

150 extra front-line police officer posts, bringing Warwickshire Police up to the 1,000 officer mark, the highest for a decade or more.

· The creation of a new Rural Crime Team, to help tackle incidents that occur in isolated parts of the county and among agricultural businesses

· Enhanced harm protection and Child Sexual Exploitation teams, providing more officers to investigate crimes against the most vulnerable;

· Boosted safer neighbourhood teams, with extra police officers and PCSOs to problem-solve in communities;

· More detectives and police staff investigators to boost CID and more complex criminal investigations.

Why are residents and businesses being asked now?

For the forthcoming financial year, planning for the budget is much more difficult because the unusual timing of the general election has left the government’s annual funding settlement being announced far later than usual, on an as-yet-unconfirmed date in January.

Usually received before Christmas, the funding settlement outlines the amount of money Warwickshire will receive from central government, as well as establishing the rules on how much (or how little) PCCs can raise for their forces locally through the council tax.

With a proposed budget needing to be formalised in early February, this leaves little time for seeking public feedback.

Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe said: “Unfortunately, the timing of the recent general election has meant that the normal cycle of funding announcements from central government have not been possible.

"This leaves both myself and the chief constable in the difficult position of not knowing how much central funding we will receive, nor what limits might be imposed on what can be raised locally through council tax.

“As our budget is made up roughly 50/50 in central government funding and council tax, any changes to either can make a significant difference to what we can deliver on the ground.

“This makes it very difficult to consult on a specific budget proposal, so I’m therefore having to take a cautious and prudent approach, based on an assessment of what Warwickshire Police currently needs to make ends meet.

“We know that due to the costs of inflation, nationally agreed salary increases, pension liabilities and the requirement to recruit and train new officers, it will cost millions more next year to provide the same level of service as this year.

“There is also a fundamental need to invest in the infrastructure which supports front-line policing to ensure that officers can work as efficiently as possible, with the right technology to do their job as safely and effectively as possible.

“As we transition out of our alliance with West Mercia Police, I also need to make sure that Warwickshire Police’s finances remain sustainable into the future and that we protect the investments during my term of office which have brought Warwickshire Police’s operational strength back up to 1,000 officers.

“I do appreciate how stretched many people’s finances have been, so I need to consider very carefully what the public has to say on any council tax increases and balance that against what the force needs to keep people safe.

"I do know from previous consultations that the public is very supportive of ensuring we have the best police service possible, so I want to hear feedback quickly on what is an acceptable balance on the council tax before I propose a finalised budget in February.”

Here are your three choices:

The Warwickshire public are being asked whether they would prefer:

1) An increase of 4.99 per cent to meet inflation-related cost pressures, nationally agreed salary increases, pension liabilities and the requirement to recruit and train new officers, meaning no further investments and requiring the force to make savings in order to balance the books.

2) An increase above 4.99 per cent to safeguard officer posts and enable investment in new technology and infrastructure, ensuring officers and staff are best equipped to keep the public safe in the most efficient and effective way.

3) No increase in the policing element of council tax (the precept) which would lead to more significant savings having to be made, resulting in policing services being reduced.

An increase of 4.99 per cent would be equivalent to an extra 22 pence per week on an average B and D property.

Here's how to have your say:

People can have their say by taking the online survey at www.warwickshire-pcc.gov.uk or by getting in contact with the Warwickshire PCC’s office in the following ways:

By post: Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Warwickshire, 3 Northgate Street, Warwick CV34 4SP

The survey will close at 4pm on Friday January 17.