08 Feb My budget plans get unanimous cross party support
This last month I’ve been canvassing your views on whether you can and are willing to, pay more for policing in Gloucestershire.
My office has conducted a survey using social media as well as a written letter to every household.
This year more so than any other I really needed to hear from the public before making my mind up about putting up taxes.
No one really wants to pay more do they – but as I’ve written about the Government before Christmas announced the county would get £6.6 million extra for policing in 2021 – which was not true unless you paid 5.88 % more in your council tax.
Would my budget plans get the official nod ?
Well, today I presented my budget plans and precept proposal to the Gloucestershire’s Police and Crime Panel.
Cross party support
I’m pleased to say the cross party panel did unanimously back my proposal to put-up the part of the council tax that pays for policing and make up some of the shortfall in the Government’s figures.
An increase of 4.99% is less than the 5.8% permitted by the Home Office without a referendum, but will add an extra £12.83 to a band D householder’s annual bill.
Along with a £3.2m Government grant announced before Christmas, it will enable the Constabulary to balance its books and introduce a system that will make it easier for the public to contact them. In return, the Chief Constable will establish an efficiency programme to identify annual on-going savings.
Budget backing continues investment in communities
The financial strategy announced will also continue to make 1% of the policing budget available to continue to support community projects and programmes managed through my Commissioner’s Fund.
It is an approach to crime reduction – the concept and scale of which is unique to Gloucestershire – that has helped support more than 470 local initiatives countywide and in many cases kept them going through the pandemic.
This year there will be a special focus on organisations helping the recovery from Covid-19.
Public consultation was close
A public consultation ran from 6 January to 5 February and produced a statistically valid sample of opinions.
On the question of whether householders were ‘willing to pay more towards the police’, 46% said yes; 48% said no and 6% didn’t know.
On the question ‘Are you able to pay more considering your current financial circumstances?’ 50% said yes; 50% said no.
In due course I will publish the full consultation results to show the breadth of views.
It’s my job
Providing sufficient resources for the Constabulary is an important part of my job but under the circumstances, I thought it right to carry out the most extensive consultation possible to find out what was palatable.
It is also right that people understand not only why the Constabulary receives a much lower grant than many other forces but also the shift away from central Government funding in favour of local council tax.
“We have a good story to tell”
I have to balance the public’s expectations of the Constabulary and their ability to pay with the needs outlined by the Chief Constable to be able to deliver a quality service.
I am also aware that during the years of austerity, the police did not have the resources they needed to provide the services the public should reasonably expect, and we cannot return to that.
Despite all that, I think we have a good story to tell.
The Constabulary has managed its finances much better than many other forces and is in a better position than most.
The budget I have drawn up will enable the Chief Constable to invest in areas the public have told me need improving whilst committing to my police and crime plan policy that every crime matters and every contact counts.
The level of council tax that pays for policing is set each year by the PCC, taking into account a referendum limit set by the government.
Over the last ten years the contribution from local householders has increased from one third of the total funding to nearly half.
Today’s budget fixing meeting comes after the Home Office announced before Christmas that Gloucestershire Constabulary would receive a maximum £6.6 million cash boost for next year. The Government’s share of £3.2m will go towards recruiting an additional 43 police officers for Gloucestershire to replace some of the 249 that were lost during the period of austerity. The rest of the £6.6m earmarked depended on the remaining £3.4m coming from a 5.8% increase in council tax.
Rated good for financial handling
In its most recent assessment, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) rated Gloucestershire Constabulary as good for efficiency, effectiveness and legitimacy and judged the Constabulary good at using resources and good at planning for the future.
Independent external auditors Grant Thornton, in their report for the year ended 31st March 2020, stated that “we are satisfied that both the PCC and the Chief Constable have proper arrangements for securing economy, efficiency and effectiveness in their use of resources”.
Summary of the headlines from today …
- Gloucestershire’s Police and Crime Panel today backed my recommendation for a 4.99% increase in council tax to pay for policing
- The increase will add £12.83 to the annual bill for a Band D taxpayer and will help top up the £3.2m Government grant announced before Christmas
- The figure is less than the 5.8% increase in council tax earmarked by the Home Office but will enable the Constabulary to balance its books and invest in plans to improve contact with the public
- A public consultation asking householders if they were willing to pay more for policing, and if so how much, ran from 5 January to 6 February
- Government grant funding now represents 52% of the total funding for Gloucestershire, compared to 66% in 2010.
- Over the past ten years, the proportion of funding for policing in Gloucestershire from central Government has fallen from nearly two thirds in 2010 to just over half.
- The core grant represents most of the grant funding from the Home Office. The core grant received for Gloucestershire represents 0.76% of the total funding provided to police forces in England and Wales. This proportion has remained the same for many years.
- The core grant per head of population received for Gloucestershire for 2020/21 is £91.58. This represents 68% of the national average and is nearly half the amount received by some forces.
- The core grant received by Gloucestershire reduced from £67.9m in 2010 to £53.2m in 2017, an actual cash reduction of £14.7m.