Can you spare £3.80 per year to boost policing services in Dorset?
PCC, Martyn Underhill is urging Dorset residents to take part in a consultation which will help him decide whether to freeze or raise the part of the Council Tax bill which is used to pay for policing in the county.
In the last five years, Dorset Police’s budget has been cut by £19m in real terms by central Government and will continue to be cut by £1m every year for the next three years.
In Dorset, around half of the police budget comes from the Government and the rest is made up from local Council Tax with the responsibility for setting the cost falling to the locally elected PCC.
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, Martyn Underhill, said: “The Chief Constable has formally requested that I raise the precept to allow the Force to meet the challenges facing policing. A maximum rise of £3.80 per year in Council Tax would generate £1.07m income, meaning we would have roughly the same amount of money as this year, taking into account our ongoing government cuts. However, we found out today that Government have further reduced the amount they give to us in order to hold back more money for special initiatives.
“When the Chancellor announced, in November 2015, that there would be no more cuts to policing, this was based on the expectation that PCCs would raise the policing element of the Council Tax bill every year until 2019.
“I’d like to thank residents for supporting a rise last year. Without it, the Force would have had to lose 23 operational police officers and seven police staff dedicated to frontline operational support.”
Last year, over 4,000 residents responded to the consultation with 82% supporting a rise. This money was invested in:
- Employing extra investigators dedicated to investigating child abuse and protecting vulnerable children.
- Helping to create a Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub with partners such as councils and the NHS, to increase joined-up working to protect vulnerable people.
- Increasing the number of officers in the cybercrime intelligence and investigation team, and enhancing the software available to them to identify sexual and violent offenders.
- Recruitment of a dedicated cyber-crime prevention officer to educate businesses and residents on staying safe online.
- Relaunching the Dorset Police website to make it easier to access information, interact with local Neighbourhood Policing Teams and to report crime online.
Assistant Chief Constable, Mark Cooper, said: “Last year’s precept increase made a real difference to policing in Dorset – helping us to tackle new threats and to improve our use of technology, both in investigations and engagement with the public.
“Again, we are facing financial pressures in real terms. While we’d obviously remain able to respond to emergencies and carry out other critical tasks, budget reductions make it difficult to innovate and improve how we work.
“If Dorset residents support a relatively small rise to council tax contributions, we are again pledging to invest in specific areas that we have been told are important to local people. You would also see these improvements happening quickly over the next year.”
If Council tax were to be raised in 2017/18, this would be invested in:
- Protecting adults at risk of harm: Including enhancing our ability to prevent and investigate abuse of older people, which is a trend in Dorset and nationally.
- Improving our response to common, non-emergency types of crime: Investing in Appointment Cars to visit victims and take details at prearranged times
- Continue to embrace new technology: Including further enhancements to Dorset Police’s website, such as the ability to make payments online rather than by post.
Martyn Underhill continues: “Policing requires constant investment to allow officers to keep up with ever changing techniques being adopted by criminals. However, it is also important we balance the needs of the police service with the financial demands on families in Dorset. Please visit www.dorsetpoliceprecept.com to share your views.
“My office will also be undertaking a number of roadshow events in January 2017, throughout the county, offering residents a further opportunity to let me know what they think.”
Following feedback from Dorset residents, the Commissioner will put his precept proposals to the Police and Crime Panel on 3 February 2017 for their comments. Once the Commissioner has listened to their views he will make his final decision.