More than 80% of respondents to a public consultation have supported Merseyside Police Commissioner’s proposal to raise the police 'precept' by a small amount to defend the police force from a further government cut.
A total of 2,051 people responded, either in person or online, to the consultation undertaken by the Commissioner, Jane Kennedy, to find out whether residents would be prepared to contribute a little extra to protect Merseyside Police's budget from a government shortfall.
Despite the Chancellor promising to protect police budgets, when confirmation of the police grant was provided to Police Commissioners it had been cut by 0.6%, with government ministers assuming local people would pay more through the ‘police precept’, part of the council tax. This cut is the equivalent of £1.35m or about 26 police officer posts.
While the government expected taxpayers to foot the difference, the Commissioner has spent the last two weeks consulting local people to find out if they would be willing to contribute a little extra to make up the shortfall and protect police officer jobs.
The results revealed that 82.69% of people were willing to approve the Commissioner’s proposal to increase the Police Precept by 1.95%, with just 16.23% of the public saying they were not prepared to pay more and 1% of people being unsure.
The increase amounts to 4p a week, or £2 a year, for a Band A household – the category which includes the majority of homes on Merseyside.
Even after this small increase, the police element of Council Tax bills on Merseyside will still be among the lowest in the country.
Jane said: “Once again local people have reminded me just how strongly the residents of Merseyside support their police force. At the same time there are a significant number who feel they are taxed too much. It is my responsibility to work with the Chief Constable to ensure every pound we spend is effectively and efficiently used.
“When the Government set the budget for the police, they failed to ask people their view and just assumed local taxpayers would be prepared to make up the shortfall. I wanted to find out whether people would genuinely be willing to do so.
“These results demonstrate beyond doubt that people on Merseyside are prepared to pay a little more - we even had members of the public offering to give us donations there and then. I’d like to thank everyone for their feedback and for the support they have shown. I know everyone is feeling the pinch at the moment and I don’t make such a proposal lightly.”
During the consultation, the Commissioner held a community consultation event in each local authority area, with two in Liverpool, in order to hear the views of many people as possible. She also conducted an online survey on her website.
A total of 1,581 people said they would be prepared to contribute a more, while 333 people said they did not think it was reasonable to ask tax payers to pay more for police services. 22 people were undecided.
The Commissioner will now present her proposed budget to the Police and Crime Panel today (Tuesday, February 2nd) for consideration and approval. In order to balance the budget she is also intending to use £3.4m from reserves.