Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner is seeking the views of residents in South Yorkshire on setting the council tax precept for policing for the financial year starting in April 2017.
Due to restrictions imposed on the Commissioner by the Government, Dr Billings will need to consider making an increase to the amount that households pay to support policing in South Yorkshire.
He said: “One of the responsibilities I have as Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) is to set the annual budget for policing. A proportion of the cost of policing is paid from the council tax (23%) with most coming directly from the Government via the police grant (77%). The local council tax element – the precept – is set by me. I also have to fund some other services, such as those that help and support victims of crime.
"The Minister for Policing has said that funding for police budgets will be at the same cash-level as the current year, provided that PCC’s make up the reduction in Government grants by increasing the police share of the council tax.
"I am allowed to increase the average council tax by about 10p per week or £5 per year for a Band D property. If I don't put the precept up, it will be more difficult for me to ask the Government for additional financial support during the course of the year. This could be quite serious since I have had to ask the Government for additional funding several times in recent years – for such items as the cost of the Hillsborough inquests.
"Even so, increasing the average council tax by 10p per week only brings the same amount of cash for the coming year as the current year. There is no additional money for inflation – such as the extra costs of salaries, fuel, uniforms, and so on – and it takes no account of the additional demands being placed on the police. These include services to protect the most vulnerable people in our society, particularly our children, people at risk of domestic abuse and hate crime.
"So, if the money stays the same, but the costs of running the police service are going up – estimated at around an extra £10 million - savings have to be found if the budget is to balance. I am looking to protect front line services and will be working hard with the Chief Constable to ensure that savings do not impact on local policing. But it does mean that every department has to think about how it can be more efficient.
"If I were to freeze the council tax at its current level this would mean even greater reductions in policing services and would mean further savings of about £1.5 million: this is equivalent to approximately 31 fewer Police Constables.
"Before I set the precept, I want to obtain your thoughts on whether I should protect funding for local policing as far as possible by increasing the council tax. Do I try to keep the number of officers and PCSOs at the present level with a modest increase in the precept and some savings, or not?
"I have been asking these questions at my recent meetings in local communities, and members of my office will be out and about in the coming weeks seeking opinions of the public on my behalf.
"I am also seeking wider views by asking you to complete this short online survey - here."
Posted on Tuesday 17th January 2017