Why am I asking for £1.25 a month for extra police officers?
I'm sure by now you'll all have seen that I'm asking for £1.25 a month to help pay for extra police officers.
I've been asking members of the public to complete my online survey and have their say on the proposals to increase the precept - the part of your council tax bill that pays for policing.
But why am I asking for this money? And what happened to the money from last year's precept increase?
Every year, I’m required by law to set the Force’s budget and consult on the level of the precept – the part of your council tax bill that pays for policing.
This year has been incredibly unusual. Because of the General Election’s unusual timing we don’t yet know how much central funding, which provides more than half of the Force’s budget; we’ll be getting from the Government.
I know many of you expect me to take a prudent approach to finances and so, rather than rush this important piece of engagement through at a later date, I’m asking for what the Force requires now.
An extra £1.25 a month – based on an average band D property – will deliver a prudent budget and achieve our ambitions of recruiting 50 extra officers to help keep people safe.
My online survey is open now and I’m asking anyone who lives in Dorset to spend just two minutes taking the survey and letting me know what they think. It’s important I get the views of as many people as possible so please click on the survey here and pass this on to friends and family so they can have a say.
What was last year’s precept spent on?
The additional income from the precept has allowed Dorset Police to invest additional resources in some of their capabilities and to modernise aspects of their functions. It is important to emphasise that the majority of the additional income from the precept was needed to meet anticipated increases in existing costs, many of which were decided by the Government.
Over the last couple of years, additional precept monies have allowed the Force to develop the work it does with young people, allowing them to safeguard the Safer Schools provision by enabling ten officers to deliver educational and preventative activities to young people across the county.
Last year also saw the implementation of a Police Cadet Scheme, which has been a long held aspiration for both me and Chief Constable. The scheme, which aims to build the confidence of young people in Dorset, was launched in September with two Cadet Units in Bournemouth, due to the scheme being so heavily over-subscribed. Dorset Police has recruited a Cadet Co-ordinator and are looking forward to extending the Cadet scheme into other communities across Dorset.
The Rural Crime Team (RCT) has been bolstered by an additional Police Officer and capacity has been created to develop the skills of an existing PCSO to support the current RCT PCSO during the current year. This enhancement to the size of the team allows it to engage more fully with Dorset’s rural communities. Further, ways to improve the effectiveness of the team by examining best practice elsewhere in the country is taking place – learning from our peers is essential to bring the best service to our rural communities.
Similarly, the size of the Marine Unit has been increased this year by an additional Police Officer. This officer is based in Neighbourhood Policing and has been heavily involved in both crime prevention and engagement with the marine community whilst working alongside a dedicated Marine Neighbourhood Engagement Officer.
The precept increase in the current financial year has also been used to develop and commission the Bobby Van initiative. The Bobby Van is a mobile unit that provides home security, crime prevention advice and reassurance for vulnerable members of the community and it is about to go live in Dorset. The van operator is able to provide practical help and support to people. The long term plan is for the Safer Dorset Foundation charity to raise sufficient funds each year to fund this service on a sustainable cost neutral basis.
So I hope you will see that your contribution to local policing is being put to good use and we intend to keep going in that direction.
How will the money be spent?
We’ve all heard the national announcements about extra officers. Of course I welcome this, and it does provide a great opportunity for Dorset, but the investment is long overdue and there is still uncertainty as the announcement only covers the first of a three-year recruitment cycle.
Recruiting and training additional officers comes with a significant extra cost, which is not being met by the Government, and it’s essential we make sure the Force can pay for this.
Meanwhile Dorset Police continues to be affected by the impact of nine years of austerity. As well as real-terms cuts to funding, there have been cost increases to UK policing, including nationally agreed salary increases and pension liabilities, while levels of demand have soared.
So, to enable Dorset Police to maintain its current service, invest in extra officers, and ensure they can protect the county’s residents from emerging risks, I am asking for an additional £1.25 a month.
Once again, please complete my survey and tell me what you think.