Merseyside’s Police Commissioner is asking local people if they would be willing to pay a little extra to help protect police officer numbers and recruit new armed officers after the government sidestepped its responsibility to invest in the police service.
After seven years of austerity, the Government announced in December that the police would, once again, receive no more new money from the Home Office to tackle crime in Merseyside.
Instead, Policing Minister Nick Hurd MP announced Police and Crime Commissioners would be expected to ask local taxpayers to pay up to an extra £1 a month towards their police service through their council tax.
Since 2010, Merseyside Police has had to make cuts of £103m, with an estimated £18m still to make by 2021/22.
If the Commissioner, Jane Kennedy, does not win the support of local people, Merseyside Police will be left facing a further shortfall of more than £3.17m – the equivalent of 64 police officer posts.
Jane said: “The sad truth is that this government has once again left police forces around the country facing a funding black hole. They have washed their hands of their responsibility and instead are shifting the burden of paying for the police on to the shoulders of local council taxpayers.
“By freezing the grant provided by central government at the 2017/18 rate - a reduction on the previous two years - the Policing Minister has imposed a real terms cut on the police budget as we contend with pay and inflationary pressures. His proposal is that I make up this shortfall by asking local taxpayers to pay more.
“This is a step which I am reluctant to take, however, if I don’t raise the policing element of local council tax then Merseyside Police will be penalised and our communities adversely affected.
“This money will be used to save police officer jobs and help us to recruit 20 new armed officers who are needed to help tackling the scourge of serious and organised crime on Merseyside and to protect our communities.
“The Government did not bother to ask people if they would be willing to contribute more for policing before they made this announcement – instead they arrogantly assumed that local residents could stump up the cash.
“I know finances are tight for a lot of people on Merseyside at the moment so I don’t ask for this tax rise lightly.”
The Commissioner is now holding a region-wide consultation asking people if they would be willing to contribute the extra funding expected by central government to make up for the shortfall and help her to limit the impact of the ongoing cuts.
The increase equates to approximately 15p a week or £8 a year for a Band A household - the lowest Council Tax category and the amount paid by the majority of tax payers on Merseyside. This would increase the police element of tax payers’ bills from £110.65 to £118.65 a year.
Even with this increase, the Commissioner and Chief Constable will still be forced to make savings of £7m over the next 12 months.
Jane said: “Since 2015 the Government have assumed that Police and Crime Commissioners like myself will put up the council tax precept to minimise the impact of their cuts to funding. It is a move which comes from a government who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
““Any additional funding we can raise from the precept will not replace the 1,000 officers we have lost over the last seven years. However, it will mean that we will have 64 officers more by March 2019 than we would otherwise.
“In a climate of growing demands, rising crime and increasing calls for help from the public, I do not believe we can afford to lose any more officers.
“I am therefore forced to ask people on Merseyside if they would be willing to contribute that extra 15p a week to help protect vital frontline police services.”
You are invited to have your say using the link below to a short online survey by Sunday 4th February.