Merseyside’s Police Commissioner is reluctantly asking local people if they would be willing to pay a little extra to protect local policing against on-going government cuts to the police budget.
After six years of austerity, the Government promised in December 2015 to protect police budgets. However, before Christmas the Commissioner, Jane Kennedy, urged the Government to stop the misleading the public after it was confirmed that the grant allocated to Merseyside Police will once again be cut for 2017/18.
If the proposed 1.4% cut is imposed it will leave the Force facing a grant reduction of £3.3m next year in comparison to this year.
To help fill this funding black hole, the Government has assumed that local people can pay more towards policing through their Council Tax. In fact, as part of the Home Office’s official financial settlement, they have already included in their calculations a 2% increase to the policing element of the Council Tax bill paid by local people.
This is the maximum increase allowed to the police precept, but even if local people do approve this increase, it will raise less than half the money lost by the grant reduction – just £1.4m. If this increase is not made, the police’s budget will effectively be cut even further.
Before making a decision on whether to make the increase expected by the Government, Jane wants to hear the views of local people. The Commissioner is holding a region-wide consultation asking people if they would be willing to contribute a little extra - 4p a week for the majority of Merseyside’s taxpayers - to make up for the Government shortfall and help her to limit the impact of these cuts.
Jane said: “The Government have not bothered to ask people if they are willing to contribute more for policing. There was no consultation. Instead when ministers have done their calculations, they have simply assumed that taxpayers can pay extra.
“I am extremely reluctant to ask local people to once again put their hands in their pockets to help supplement the funding for policing Merseyside. However, yet again my hands are tied. I have been left with no choice - if I don’t increase the amount of council tax collected towards policing, more police officer posts will go.
“We are now facing an additional £3.3m black hole. I can offset that by £1.4m by asking local people if they are once again happy to contribute a little extra, but it still does not make up the cut we are facing.
“The Government has broken its promise to protect the police. They are cutting our funding by the back door and then expect local people to make up the difference, despite the fact taxpayers are already stretched and being expected to contribute more and more.”
The proposed increase expected by the Government works out as about £2 a year extra 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 £108.53 to £110.65
Jane said: “Merseyside Police has already had its budget cut by more than £84m over the last six years. This has led to the loss of more than 1,600 officers, PCSOs and staff. This is all in a context of rising crime and major budget cuts to our community safety partners. We cannot afford to lose any more.
“I am therefore forced to ask people on Merseyside if they would be willing to contribute an extra 4p a week to help protect vital frontline police services.
“I know finances are tight for a lot of people on Merseyside at the moment so I don’t ask this question lightly. Before I make any final decision I want to hear the views of local people.”
You are invited to have their say through a short online survey by Wednesday 1st February.