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Panel approves £2 monthly council tax rise to fund policing

Police and Crime Panel members have approved plans to raise the amount of money households pay to fund Dorset’s police service by £2 a month.

Martyn Underhill, Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Dorset, held a six week consultation into proposals to raise the precept – the part of a council tax bill which funds policing – by £24 a year following on from the advice of the Home Secretary to raise the precept to the maximum permitted.  

Now, after just under 70% of those surveyed supported the idea, members of the Dorset Police and Crime Panel – which scrutinises the PCC – gave it their backing at Dorchester’s County Hall on Thursday February 7. 

All 15 members of the 17-strong panel who were present during the meeting voted unanimously to approve the plans. Two members were not in attendance.

Martyn Underhill said:  “I’m extremely grateful to all of those people who took the time to respond to my survey, and to panel members for supporting the proposals. I’m well aware that many households in the county are struggling financially, and the fact so many have said they would be prepared to pay this extra amount demonstrates how important an effective police service is to them.”

The results of the consultation were presented at the panel meeting. A total of 4,829 people responded – either online, via social media or face-to-face at a series of public events – with 69.31% saying they would be prepared to pay the additional amount. As well as consulting on the proposed precept increase, residents were also asked if they felt that Dorset Police needed more money. 85% agreed that it did. 

The enhancement will amount to £7.8m in extra income for Dorset Police, going some way to offset cuts in central funding.

The panel also heard how a £1m Innovation Fund will be set up – funded by a combination of recurring efficiencies in the Force’s budget and from a surplus of previously uncollected council tax receipts – which will pay for initiatives such as extra officers in the rural and marine crime units, improving road safety and providing more help to homeless people.

Martyn Underhill said: “I’ve had a lot of conversations with Dorset residents over the last few weeks and something I’ve heard time and time again is ‘we shouldn’t be paying for this – the government should!’

“I couldn’t agree more – central government have adopted a policy of public sector funding being devolved to local taxpayers for several years now, something I inherently disagree with, as over time, it disadvantages poorer communities.

“This consultation was launched following real terms cuts of more than £25m over the last eight years, while Dorset Police’s budget has had to absorb growing inflation and an unfunded pay increase for officers.

“We’ve also seen a 10% increase in reported crime last year, a 9% increase in the number of emergency calls, and we’re seeing a huge rise in the number of serious sexual offences.

“Our financial troubles are far from over and I will continue to press the government for a fairer settlement in the new funding formula. However, with prudent saving we will now be able to invest more resources in areas of key concern, such as tackling County Lines drug gangs.

“We’re also going to introduce a volunteer cadet service to help young people play a role in their communities and create a Bobby Van scheme to help vulnerable and older people across the county.”

Today’s meeting concludes the consultation process and the Commissioner’s decision to raise the policing precept stands. The change will come into effect from 1 April 2019.

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