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Panel approves £10 council tax rise to recruit extra police officers

Police and Crime Panel members have approved plans to raise the amount of money households pay to fund Dorset Police by £10 a year.

This is less than the amount Dorset residents said they would be prepared to pay during a public consultation, and the additional money will enable the Force to deliver a balanced budget and recruit an additional 50 officers.

Martyn Underhill, Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Dorset, asked the panel for their agreement to increase the precept – the part of a council tax bill that funds policing – following Government advice to raise this by the maximum amount permitted. The increase of 83 pence per month is based on an average band D household.

Members of the Dorset Police and Crime Panel voted unanimously to approve the plans during their meeting on Tuesday February 4.

Previously, the Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner (OPCC) held a consultation with Dorset residents asking whether they would support an increase.

This survey was held before the Government funding settlement was announced, because of a delay due to the General Election, and was based on assumptions that PCCs would be expected to raise the precept by £15 a year or £1.25 a month.

A total of 5,152 people responded, either online or during a series of face-to-face events, with 87.21% saying Dorset Police required additional funding and 74.52% saying they would be willing to pay the higher amount.

Dorset PCC Martyn Underhill said: “Following a decade of austerity, this is the first Government funding settlement in years I can feel positive about, and will mean not only that Dorset Police can deliver a balanced budget but that new officers will be recruited to keep people safe.

“However, the funding always comes with strings and disappointingly once more I have been given no choice but to ask for some of the money to come from local taxpayers.

“I go out every year to ask Dorset residents what they think about plans to raise the precept, and this year had to take the unusual decision to do this without knowing what we were getting from the Government.

“Despite this, we had the largest response of any survey I’ve ever carried out, with nearly three quarters saying they would be willing to pay even more than the amount that is now on the table.

“While it’s good news for now, there are still a great deal of unanswered questions about the Government funding, and I want to see a fairer funding system than the current formula which massively disadvantages smaller forces like our own.

“The 50 officers starting in Dorset represent the first of a three-year recruitment cycle, and the Government needs to provide much more clarity about how the Force will pay for new recruits over the next two years.

“Forces urgently need a much more long term funding system, allowing chief constables to plan, particularly at a time when they are being asked to deliver huge numbers of new officers.”

Today’s meeting concludes the consultation process and the Commissioner’s decision to raise the policing precept by £10 a year stands. The change will come into effect from 1 April 2020.

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