The three Police and Crime Commissioners for the North East have today slammed the Home Secretary for increasing council tax bills to fund policing, instead of the Government providing a fair funding settlement for the communities of Cleveland, Durham & Darlington and Northumbria.
Residents across the North East of England are facing a significant increase to the policing element of council tax as a consequence of the Government announcing that PCCs will be allowed to increase the precept by up to £24 per year for a Band D property. If this increase does not go ahead, it could mean a funding cut for the region’s three forces.
The three PCCs are once again demanding that the Home Secretary stops making hard working families pay for policing, when it is the duty of the Government to provide effective policing and keep our communities safe – a point with which PCCs from all political parties agree. In simple terms, the Government funding package for each force assumes that PCCs will increase the precept up to £24. If the PCCs don’t it will result in a cut to the funding received to pay for policing in the North East.
North East police forces are some of the busiest in the country and yet continue to be underfunded by central Government, having all seen funding losses of more than 30 per cent resulting in almost 2,000 fewer police officers on the streets of Northumbria, County Durham, Darlington and Cleveland since 2010.
Commenting on the announcement, Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner for Durham and Darlington, Ron Hogg, said “The Government has not increased the amount it pays for policing – it has put all the burden on council tax payers. In areas like mine, the majority of properties are in Council Tax Band A, which means that those with the lowest incomes are being asked to pay the largest part of the increase. I would compare that to areas like Surrey, where there are many more properties in the top council tax band, lived in by people with very significantly higher incomes.”
Cleveland PCC Barry Coppinger added “I do not want to increase the precept for residents in Cleveland, but under this settlement I am left with very little choice and it simply isn’t fair. Once again, residents in the most deprived areas are being asked to foot the bill for the country’s underfunded police forces, as the Government once again fail to account for the increasing cost of policing and levels of inflation. I will continue to lobby the Government and push for a fairer deal for all of our forces. Cleveland has some of the highest levels of crime and deprivation in the country, yet our overall level of funding increase for next year is £7.2m and Surrey’s is by £17.6m – over £10m more. How can an area with 60 per cent higher level of recorded crime be treated so unfairly?”
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird QC, said: “It is completely wrong for our police forces to be in this position. I wanted the Government to put in place a fair funding formula – they refused. Once again they are moving the burden of proper police funding onto hard-pressed council tax payers through the police precept. £24 a year is an increase of a quarter on the burden on local families who deserve better, but we do not want instead to be forced to make yet more cuts to our vital policing services. I will start 2019 consulting with local residents to see what extra they feel should be implemented in Northumbria.”
The three PCCs will consult with their communities to find out what they think. None of the region’s PCCs have taken a decision on this matter yet, this will happen after the consultation closes. In the meantime the three PCCs will seek an urgent meeting with the Home Secretary, speaking up for local residents and demanding change to the funding formula.