Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Olly Martins is once again seeking to hike the amount the county’s residents pay towards policing through their council tax.
Last year Mr Martins infamously triggered a council tax referendum seeking a 15.8% increase in the Police Precept, equivalent to 48p a week extra for the average (Band D) household.
This week Mr Martins launched a public consultation on a more modest 1.99% rise for Beds Police’s share of the overall council tax bill – the maximum permitted without triggering another referendum.
He said: “Clearly this year the increase I am proposing is somewhat less but the need remains as great.
“Due to our inadequate funding we have just 169 police officers per 100,000 population against an England and Wales average of 232 and 388 in the Metropolitan Police area.
“Yet we have the fourth highest level of gun crime, the fifth highest level of serious acquisitive crime and the seventh highest level of knife crime. That’s why the Chief Constable says we need 300 more officers to put us on a par with those forces that have similar crime and policing challenges.
“This 1.99% increase, the maximum permissible without triggering a referendum, barely allows Bedfordshire Police to stand still, particularly as we expect continuing government Police Grant cuts, cost and pay pressures, together with looming National Insurance changes to mean we need to make total savings of £12.9million over the next five years.
“I still hope that the Home Office will finally recognise our unique plight, in that we have historically been treated as though we are a small county force when we face distinctly urban challenges, and finally provide adequate funding when they complete their police allocation formula review later this year.
“However, I am not holding my breath because before they ignominiously abandoned it, their botched funding formula review in the summer proposed giving us exactly the same share of the Home Office’s police funding cake, whilst all the other forces in the Eastern region who don’t have our problems were set to receive a bigger slice.
“Our county has been under-policed giving criminals an easier run for too long. So I make no apology for constantly highlighting the inadequacies of our police funding and waging a ceaseless campaign for a fair government grant for Bedfordshire Police.”
The commissioner said the increase would amount to an extra £3 per annum for an average (Band D) household.
He said: “The choice we face is between protecting our frontline police strength or freezing what people pay through the council tax. Given the overwhelming view I get from the public that the police are not visible enough in their communities I hope this small annual rise will prove acceptable to avoid diminishing our community policing footprint further still.”
The survey can be accessed via the Commissioner’s website (www.bedspcc.org) or using the following link https://www.bedsalert.co.uk/OpinionGathering/260ea1968083f66e8de1fb1bb039bfbb
Closing date is midnight, January 27, 2016.