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Essex: Police and crime commissioner proposes 3.5% council tax increase

PUBLISHED: 06:00 24 January 2013

Nick Alston

Nick Alston

Archant

THE Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex has proposed a 3.5% increase in council tax to tackle youth offending and domestic abuse.

Nick Alston said he is asking for a higher portion of council tax to fund Essex Police because of the financial position of the force is “even more challenging” than he suspected.

The hike amounts to an extra £4.77 per year for a Band D council tax payer. In total it would raise an additional £2.75million in revenue.

Mr Alston said the amount of council tax which is currently paid to fund policing services in Essex is the lowest in the country.

The move follows a 20% cut in Government grants to Essex Police which has forced the force to find £42million of savings over fours years including the loss of 350 police officers.

The proposed increase is in stark contrast to councils, the majority of which are freezing their share of council tax for the next financial year.

Mr Alston said: “There must be a risk that continued cuts in the number of police officers will make Essex more vulnerable to crime. Therefore, I have decided to ask for a 3.5% increase in the portion of council tax used to fund policing and community safety in Essex, which amounts to an extra £4.77 per year for a Band D council tax payer.

“In real terms, I am asking for an extra forty pence a month, just over a penny a day, to fund our police force and crime reduction work. I believe it would be irresponsible of me, indeed that I would be failing in my duty as Police and Crime Commissioner, if I didn’t make the case for this small increase in the portion of council tax used to fund policing.”

Mr Alston added: “I propose to spend the extra revenue raised on youth offending teams, drug and alcohol work and domestic abuse programmes.”

But he said he does not rule out recruiting more police officers if there was an urgent need.

Asked if he thought the public would support the move, he said: “Going on what people have said to me, everybody said they want to see more policing. People really do care about community safety.

“There’s no quick fix, but I’m trying to put my money where my mouth is.”

Last night Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell questioned the accountability of police and crime commissioners and said there were mixed messages coming out of central government regarding council tax rates.

He said: “We have a situation where the secretary of state for communities and local government is imploring local councils not to increase their precepts, yet across the other side of the cabinet table, the home secretary is seemingly allowing another arm of local government to increase their share of council tax.

“There is clearly great democratic accountability at local councils compared to newly elected police and crime commissioners.”

He said he had submitted questions to the home secretary Theresa May asking her what advice she had given to police and crime commissioners for setting their budgets.

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