AN increase in the policing part of the council tax means Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens can recruit 70 additional officers and enhance investigations capacity to improve outcomes for victims.
Today she confirmed an increase in the policing part of the Council Tax – known as the precept – of 5.88% for local residents, equivalent to £13.39 per year for the average Band D household.
The increase will allow Avon and Somerset Police to manage cost pressures, maintain Operation Uplift – the Government’s 2019 plans to recruit an additional 20,000 police officers across the country – and enhance investigative capacity to improve outcomes for victims of the most traumatic and life changing crimes such as rape and sexual offences, child abuse and exploitation.
The funding will also go towards developing the force’s estates strategy by re-developing and improving our police station provision.
It follows a decision from the Home Office to freeze the policing grant for 2021/22 and allowing PCCs to significantly increase the policing part of the council tax in order to simply keep pace with inflation in the budget as a whole. When announcing the police settlement in December, the Home Office included the full precept increase of £15 per year for the average Band D household, equivalent to 6.6% in Avon and Somerset.
The PCC initially proposed the full increase of 6.6% but this was vetoed by the area’s Police and Crime Panel – the first time a PCC’s budget proposal has been vetoed in Avon and Somerset – and the panel then wrote to the PCC with their concerns.
Following review of the panel’s recommendations, attending an extraordinary Police and Crime Panel meeting and amending the budget to reduce the additional funds allocated for the incoming PCC’s initiatives, Sue Mountstevens announced her revised precept increase of 5.88%.
She said: “I know that any increase in household bills is felt by local people and, after this extraordinary year, this rise is an even bigger ask. The pandemic has had a huge impact on our communities and has affected many people’s finances. The decision to raise the policing part of the council tax has not been taken lightly.
“I know it is a difficult decision but if the Council Tax was not increased, Avon and Somerset Police would have to make significant cuts and their services to local people would be significantly reduced.
“It is vital to balance the challenges facing policing, the increased threat from criminality, local people’s views and the safety of residents. Through my consultation I heard from over 3,500 local people and the majority supported an increase to support policing.
“This is a really positive step for policing and is good news for residents as it will keep our communities safe, and allow us to work towards our vision of excellent victim services, better policing, and fairer criminal justice services for all.
“Since 2012, it has been a priority of mine to put victims first and this investment will increase the forces investigative capacity to improve outcomes for victims and ensure we continue to give them a voice.
“Avon and Somerset Police receive one of the lowest funding settlements in the country compared to its relative need and population and, alongside the Chief Constable, I have long campaigned for fairer funding through the police funding formula.”
The Police and Crime Panel is independent of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and oversees the work of the area’s Police and Crime Commissioner.