Beds Council Tax is going up by a “small rise” to help pay for extra community bobbies.
The county’s police and crime commissioner Olly Martins has got backing for the rise - which amounts to about six pence a week for Band D taxpayers - in a bid to get more specials onto the streets and boost visible policing.
The Police and Crime Panel’s agreement to the 1.99% increase on Thursday will help pay for the recruitment of more special constables this year.
“This rise helps us to continue my constant theme of addressing force visibility,” the commissioner said.
“Recruiting more specials – which follows on from the saving of the PCSOs last year – is an additional activity that we would have to put on the back burner without this increase.
“The Chief Constable and I will do everything we can to avoid cuts to front line officers and, as Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has noted, we’re doing everything else we can to make savings.”
He went on: “There are very limited opportunities to further reduce expenditure after March 2015 without resorting to making significant cuts to frontline local policing.
“With reductions to police funding expected to continue, I proposed this council tax increase with a view to maintaining police officer and PCSO numbers and building up the number of specials and volunteers.”
Members heard that the budget had been built around Mr Martins’ police and crime plan.
Over the last two years Beds Police has saved £15m from its revenue budget and needs to save around a further £8.50m over the next two. Taking into account the increase in council tax precept, savings of £4.85m had to be achieved in order to set the revenue budget for 2014-15 at £101.691m.
The 2014/15 financial settlement left the Force with £1m less funding than originally planned for when the Government’s Spending Review was announced in June 2013. Some of the expected funding was re-directed to bodies like the HMIC, College of Policing and the National Police Co-ordination Centre.
“So, with a 4.8% reduction on the force’s main policing grant from the government, and the need to find £8.50m in efficiency savings over the next two years - on top of the £15m already saved over the last three years - it’s vital that I maximise every available resource to protect frontline policing,” the Commissioner said.
As at 1 April 2014, the force establishment includes 1,067 police officers, 108 PCSOs and 814 police staff. In 2014/15 there will be 20 fewer police officers and three fewer police staff than the previous year.
“While overall staffing levels will decrease, this will not apply to frontline policing which I am looking to protect over the medium term,” Mr Martins said.