Merseyside’s Police Commissioner’s proposals to balance the region’s police budget and enable police officer numbers to increase for the first time in nine years have been approved by the body which scrutinises her work.
The Police and Crime Panel considered and approved Jane Kennedy’s plans to stabilise Merseyside Police’s budget, protecting 100 police officer jobs and allowing an extra 40 officers to be recruited.
The Commissioner’s budget plan follows the disappointing announcement in December that the police would receive no new money for the day-to-day running of Merseyside Police from the Home Office. Instead, Policing Minister Nick Hurd MP said Police and Crime Commissioners would be expected to ask local people if they would be willing to pay a little extra through the police precept.
Following a three-week consultation with local people, during which more than 74% of respondents indicated their willingness to pay the additional money to protect police officer numbers and put extra feet on the beat, the Commissioner reluctantly took the decision to propose the increase in order to generate an extra £9.8m.
Jane said: “Asking local people to pay more in their council tax for their police service is something I do extremely reluctantly. However, I was left with very little choice. The Government has made its position very clear; any additional funding to meet the unprecedented challenges facing the police service, to address inflationary costs and to restore some of the officer posts we so desperately need will not come from the centre. Instead it must be asked of local people.
“If I had not made this rise, Merseyside Police would be left facing further damaging cuts.
“I am once again grateful to local people who have shown their overwhelming support for their police service. Nearly 2,200 people took the time to respond to my consultation, with more than 74% giving their support for this increase. It is clear local people are willing to play their part in protecting our police service to keep their communities safe.
“The Police and Crime Panel have also recognised the necessity of this increase and the extent to which my hands are tied. They too have condemned the Government for their sleight of hand in putting this burden on local people and are rightly concerned about the impact on their residents. I appreciate their understandable anxieties, and I’m grateful for their support.
“While I firmly believe the lion’s share of responsibility for providing the appropriate level of funding for a large urban force like Merseyside must be with central government and general taxation, I know the public of Merseyside want more, not fewer officers. That’s what the Chief Constable and I are trying very hard to deliver and I’m pleased that for the first in nine years we will actually be in a position to increase the number of feet on the beat at Merseyside Police.”
The increase equates to approximately 31p a week or £16 a year for a Band A household - the lowest Council Tax category and the amount paid by the majority of tax payers on Merseyside. For a Band D property, it equates 46p a week or £24 a year.
Now the Police and Crime Panel have signalled their endorsement of the Commissioner’s plans, she will ask the region’s local authorities to implement the increase, which will come into effect from 1st April 2019.