More than 74% of respondents to a public consultation have supported a proposal to protect 100 police officer jobs and recruit 40 new officers.
Nearly 2,200 people responded, either in person or online, to the consultation undertaken by the Commissioner, Jane Kennedy, asking whether residents would be prepared to pay an increase in the police precept (council tax ring-fenced for the police) to protect Merseyside Police's budget after the Government said local council precept payers must pay more to avoid further cuts in police jobs.
The increase equates to approximately 31p a week or £16 a year for a Band A household, the lowest Council Tax category, but the amount paid by the majority of council tax payers on Merseyside.
The 2019/2020 financial settlement, announced by Policing Minister Nick Hurd MP in December, provided an additional £8.4m in government grant for Merseyside Police but this will be entirely consumed by the pension shortfall announced by the Government just three months earlier. The settlement provided no new money for the day-to-day running of Merseyside Police, the cost of which increases every year due to pay and price inflation. Without a rise in the council precept the Force would be facing further damaging cuts.
Since 2010 Merseyside Police has already been required to make cuts of £110m, with an estimated £14.5m still to make by 2022/23. In that time, the size of the organisation has reduced by a quarter, with 1,110 fewer police officers now patrolling the region’s streets. This increase in the precept would enable the Chief Constable to avoid the planned cut of 100 police posts and instead, increase the number of police officer posts by 40.
While the government expected taxpayers to contribute more, the Commissioner has spent the last three weeks consulting local people to find out if they would be willing to contribute more to limit the impact of these cuts and protect police officer jobs.
The results revealed that 74.2% of respondents were willing to approve an increase to the Police Precept, with 22.1% saying they were not prepared to pay more and 3.7% of people being unsure.
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: “While the Government arrogantly assumed taxpayers would be willing to pay more, I wanted to actually ask local people their views.
“Once again I am overwhelmed by the public’s support for their local police service. While the Government are clearly not willing to provide the funding the police need and deserve, the vast majority of local people are prepared to contribute more to protect Merseyside Police. This shows just how highly people value their police and how desperately they want to see more officers on the beat.
“It is now my responsibility to work with the Chief Constable to get the most out of every pound we spend and deliver the most effective and efficient service we can with the resources we have.
“I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to give their views – it is reassuring to know that people want to ensure their local force is adequately funded. Thanks also to those who feel they are taxed enough already and could not support the proposals, many of whom felt, like I do, that this money should come from central government. I know everyone is feeling the pinch at the moment and I ask people to pay more extremely reluctantly.”
During the consultation, the Commissioner held a community roadshow 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.
The Commissioner will now present her proposed budget to the Police and Crime Panel tomorrow (Tuesday, February 5th) for consideration and approval.