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Police Commissioner rejects council tax freeze offer

Police Commissioner rejects council tax freeze offer

🕔11.Jan 2013

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Bob Jones is proposing to reject the offer of a £1.9 million Government grant which would allow council tax bills to be frozen.

Mr Jones described the grant, equivalent to one per cent of the force budget, as a “meagre” contribution similar to a “payday loan” which would not deal with financial problems faced by the police.

In a draft budget paper for 2013-14, the Commissioner suggests a three per cent increase in the precept, which is the portion of West Midlands council tax bills which goes to fund the police force.

The increase is equivalent to just 5p a week and means that average Band D households will pay £102 a year towards the cost of running West Midlands police.

Mr Jones warned that police forces tempted to accept council tax freeze grants would find themselves in trouble when the money ran out.

He added: “If I were to accept a further freeze grant for 2013-14 and 2014-15, in addition to those taken in the past, it is estimated that by 2015-16, when the freeze grant would no longer be paid, there would have to be a precept increase in the order of 10 per cent to replace the ‘lost’ spending power.

“I do not believe that is a prudent and responsible approach to take and action should be taken as soon as possible to establish a stable resource base.”

The police and crime panel will decide whether to accept Mr Jones’s budget. The body does have powers to order the Commissioner to re-think his plans.

In a budget paper published today, Mr Jones sets out plans to take £30 million from cash reserves to pay for modern custody cell blocks, and to release 100 officers from desk-bound duties and place them on to front line policing.

Mr Jones said: “I am committed to keeping the policing precept as low as possible. Although this increase will cost households a few pounds a year extra, it will release 100 officers to operational frontline duties.

“By recruiting police staff to roles currently carried out by a mixture of police officers and police staff, roles that do not require the full powers of a police constable, the funding will help to maintain current service levels in key front line areas that do require police powers.

“This enables the serving police officers in these roles to be re-allocated to more operational duties. The new police staff posts will also provide redeployment opportunities for existing police staff who would otherwise be made redundant, thereby saving recruitment and redundancy costs.”

He plans to save money by consolidating office space used by the force and ending expensive leasing arrangements in Birmingham city centre.

The Commissioner is continuing his battle to persuade the Government to pay “fairer” cash grants to the West Midlands force. A formula damping system used by the Home Office means that the West Midlands will receive £44 million less in grant in 2013-14 than would otherwise have been the case.

Budget savings of £20 million are planned for 2013-14 in order to meet cuts in Government grant. The forced early retirement of police officers with 30 years’ service is expected to continue along with a freeze on vacant posts and reduced overtime.

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