Is £7 per month a price worth paying?

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Leighton Buzzard Writers column. This week by Sara Harris...

Like most of us, I don’t really enjoy paying my council tax. It’s just one of those things, like death and dentistry, that just has to be endured.

I like the little civilised bits that go along with it, like libraries and having my dustbins emptied.

More importantly, I also like knowing that if something grim happens, and I call 999, that the police will turn up.

We have just over 1,100 police and PCSOs in Bedfordshire, and when you consider that only one-third of them are generally on duty at any time and we have Luton on our doorstep, with its challenging level of big-city crime, it is hardly surprising that police resources are thinly spread across the whole county.

Here in Bedfordshire, and especially in an expanding town like Leighton Buzzard, we desperately need more police officers. But police officers are not free (not even Special Constables who are of course unpaid volunteers – it still costs Beds Police money to send a Special out on the streets for a shift).

Because we need more police officers, the police precept, the bit of the council tax that goes to the police, has gone up by 16%. This is no secret, we knew it was coming.

When the council tax bill arrived last week, I was primed and ready to go a bit wobbly when I looked at the big number on the right hand side. It was larger than last year’s number, but not by much. I’m paying an extra £7 every month.

Is £7 a month really excessive to have an improved police service? Let’s not kid ourselves, it won’t mean a Dixon-of-Dock-Green, bobbies pounding every beat in town situation.

It won’t mean that there is a policeman on point duty at every intersection, and it won’t mean that you’ll get a blue-light response when you report your garden fence having been vandalised. It will mean, though, that there will be a few more officers around, and that responses to real emergencies will be that bit quicker.

There is a referendum in May to determine people’s views on the increased precept.

Please do vote in favour if you possibly, possibly can. Because the alternative is to have fewer and fewer officers available to respond to calls and to be there when we need them.

The thin blue line is getting thinner all the time, let’s just try and plump it up a bit.