Police sound Council Tax hike warning
By Sharon AsplinCOUNCIL Tax payers will be asked to dig deep in their pockets to maintain the number of bobbies on the beat next year.The chairman of Essex Police Authority said its share of the Council Tax for the next financial year was likely to rise by 7%.
By Sharon Asplin
COUNCIL Tax payers will be asked to dig deep in their pockets to maintain the number of bobbies on the beat next year.
The chairman of Essex Police Authority said its share of the Council Tax for the next financial year was likely to rise by 7%.
But Robert Chambers warned when Essex County Council's share of the bill was added, the average Council Tax payer could be left needing to find a further £100 a year from April.
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His prediction will be a blow to the county's residents, many of whom are still reeling after this year's average Council Tax bill topped £1,000.
Home Secretary David Blunkett will reveal next week the Government's funding for police forces for 2004.
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It is thought the majority of funding will be given to large city forces and Essex Police Authority will receive just a 2.5% rise.
As a result, the police share of the Council Tax - which last year rocketed by almost 20% for the average Band D households - will once again have to rise to fund the shortfall.
Mr Chambers said Essex Police had made efficiency savings and increased its frontline policing.
He added the rise of about 7% would continue to fund these and enable the force to deliver other necessary services.
“That's what the public wants, but in order to maintain it we are having to put our Council Tax up because the Government does not give us sufficient funding,” said Mr Chambers.
“In real terms, thankfully, it's not that much, but nonetheless it will hit pensioners and I do not think we can see tax rises at the rate we did last year.
“I am determined not to cut back because I don't think it's what the public, including pensioners, want.”
Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative MP for Essex North, was scathing of the likely funding increase.
“Labour's answer to crime is a handful more policemen and more money on the Council Tax - it's hopeless,” he said.
“The Council Tax hits those just above the income support level the hardest and I am very worried about how difficult next year's bill will be to meet for many people in my constituency, not just pensioners.”
Bob Russell, the Liberal Democrat MP for Colchester, said it would be fairer if services, such as the police, were funded by a local income tax.
“I think most people accept that the Council Tax is not the best way of funding our local services and that it needs looking at again,” he added.
Alan Hurst, the Labour MP for Braintree, said “We do need to review the funding received in the years after that because there's a fear of crime in the rural areas and when they are next to an urban area the greater that fear.
“I think the settlement this year will be sufficient, but we must not get complacent after that. However, there is not a bottomless pit of money.”