Residents across Somerset are set to see a further £13 annual increase in their council tax bills specifically for policing.
It comes after members of the Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Panel met on Thursday (February 1st) to consider the Police and Crime Commissioner’s proposed increase in the council tax precept, which is the money collected from council tax specifically for policing.
The Panel was required to consider if an annual increase of £13 for an average Band D property is ‘fair and appropriate’.
A spokesperson for the panel said they had deliberated for over three hours before agreeing that an annual increase of £13 for an average Band D property in the force area was needed to provide an ‘outstanding police service for our residents’.
“Panel members were mindful of the many financial challenges our many residents will face this year,” adds the spokesperson.
“Our approval is contingent on several concerns being addressed including evidence that the extra investment is making a tangible difference,” adds Cllr Heather Shearer, the Panel’s Chair.
“Success will be judged on the information and assurances that are made available by the Commissioner and taken into account when the Panel meets to consider next year’s proposal.”
The Chair went on to say: “It is essential that the Panel and the public can accurately judge the Commissioner’s performance against the priorities and objectives in his Police and Crime Plan. The additional investment from the precept increase has to deliver real improvements in the service available to local communities. We will continue to press for this assurance.”
PCC Mark Shelford said: “I extend my sincere appreciation to the Police and Crime Panel for their thorough interrogation of the information used to make this decision, and to local people for their support and active participation in the survey.
“I recognise the financial challenges people are facing and understand the strain on households.
“I want to emphasise that this decision was not taken lightly. My job is to balance the views of the public with the right level of financial support needed to provide Chief Constable Sarah Crew with the resource required to ensure the continued delivery of an effective, efficient, and legitimate policing service.”
The precept accounts for 41% of police funding and the rest is from central Government. The Government set the maximum amount by which PCCs can increase the precept each year. This year the maximum Government said PCCs can ask for was £13.
The PCC’s decision follows a 12-week-long consultation that saw more than 6,500 people complete an online and postal survey asking if they supported an increase and how much extra they were willing to pay from zero to £20.
69.8% of respondents with an opinion were supportive of an increase of £10 or above, which includes the 44.8% who were supportive of an £20 increase. While 30.2% of respondents with did not wish to pay any increase at all.
Out of the 6500 responses the majority were not employed by the police (4,953) were not employed by the police. 1,565 of those who participated were police officers and staff.
The Police and Crime Panel is independent of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and has a statutory responsibility to scrutinise the PCC’s proposed council tax precept.