Huge £ 24 tax hike to fund po­lice ‘ won’t solve the cash cri­sis’

‘ MAX­I­MUM’ £ 12 IN­CREASE COULD DOU­BLE, LEAKED PLANS RE­VEAL

Solihull News - - FRONT PAGE - JONATHAN WALKER jonathan. [email protected] reach­plc. com

AN in­fla­tion- bust­ing in­crease in coun­cil tax bills is planned to help cash- strapped po­lice forces.

The po­lice pre­cept, which is added to coun­cil tax bills, could in­crease by £ 24 next year.

But the West Mid­lands Po­lice and Crime Com­mis­sioner, David Jamieson, says this won’t solve the force’s cash short­age.

A spokesper­son for the Com­mis­sioner said: “We await the fund­ing set­tle­ment but it is look­ing in­creas­ingly clear that we will be still fac­ing real terms cuts in gov­ern­ment fund­ing and the gov­ern­ment is try­ing to force the coun­cil tax up again.”

The Home Of­fice is re­ported to be plan­ning to al­low Po­lice and Crime Com­mis­sion­ers to add £ 24 to coun­cil tax bills for band D homes next year.

The max­i­mum in­crease al­lowed this year was half that, at £ 12.

Al­though com­mis­sion­ers are free to im­pose a lower in­crease, they are likely to put up bills as much as pos­si­ble and ar­gue that forces need the money be­cause cen­tral gov­ern­ment grants have been cut.

In re­cent years, the grant from cen­tral gov­ern­ment has been frozen ( known as a “flat cash” set­tle­ment). But this is a cut in real terms, be­cause it doesn’t take into ac­count the im­pact of in­fla­tion.

Plans to al­low a £ 24 in­crease have been leaked and are ex­pected to be an­nounced of­fi­cially later this week. The Home Of­fice has not yet made any of­fi­cial com- ment. Many house­holds would ac­tu­ally pay less, be­cause their homes are in lower prop­erty bands. The cur­rent pre­cept for a Band D home in the West Mid­lands is £ 128.55 a year.

Of­fi­cial fig­ures show the num­ber of vi­o­lent crimes recorded by West Mid­lands Po­lice rose from 42,280 in the 12 months up to De­cem­ber 2010, to 52,176 in the 12 months up to De­cem­ber 2017.

At the same time, the num­ber of po­lice of­fi­cers fell from 8,626 to 6,758.

The Home Af­fairs Select Com­mit­tee pub­lished a re­port in Oc­to­ber warn­ing that po­lice need more money. It said: “With­out ex­tra fund­ing, some­thing will have to give, and the po­lice will not be able to ful­fil their du­ties in de­liv­er­ing pub­lic safety, crim­i­nal jus­tice, com­mu­nity co­he­sion and pub­lic con­fi­dence.”

Dave Thomp­son, Chief Con­sta­ble of West Mid­lands Po­lice, has warned that the force is “not pur­su­ing crimes where we could find a sus­pect”, say­ing: “I think crim­i­nals are well aware now how stretched we are.”

The Na­tional Au­dit Of­fice, the of­fi­cial spend­ing watch­dog, found in Septem­ber that ar­rest rates are down and po­lice are breathalysing fewer mo­torists be­cause of fund­ing cuts – and West Mid­lands Po­lice is un­fairly hit by a sys­tem which means it suf­fers big­ger cuts than other forces.

Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May promised dur­ing the Con­ser­va­tive Party con­fer­ence that aus­ter­ity would come to an end and fund­ing for pub­lic ser­vices would in­crease, but only after the Gov­ern­ment spend­ing re­view next year.

David Jamieson

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