Police and crime commissioners (PCCs) have criticised a funding announcement that asks them to find another £270 million through changes to their take of the council tax.
Hardyal Dhindsa: Government has
not taken the next step
Last month the Government announced another £450 million will be invested in policing in its provisional grant settlement for 2018/19.
More than half of this will be raised through increasing the limit on changes to precepts to £12 a year, while central grant allocations remain unchanged.
Several PCCs have welcomed the ‘fair settlement’ for providing more money and going some way to addressing inequalities caused by the former two per cent cap on precept changes.
However, a number have accused ministers of shifting the burden of police funding onto the taxpayer.
Derbyshire PCC Hardyal Dhindsa said: “[The Government] have accepted that policing requires resources and funding and cannot continue to be cut back to the bone, but they have not done the next thing which is making a fairer allocation from central police grant. That is just the wrong way around.
“It may only be £1 a month, but it still is putting a greater burden on local taxpayers as opposed to central government income tax receipts funding this.”
The budget, announced on December 19, followed months of campaigning for extra funding and a series of force visits by Policing and Fire Minister Nick Hurd to assess current levels of demand.
It includes an additional £50 million ring-fenced for counter terror policing and £130 million that will be made available for national priorities such as responding to major incidents.
Combined with the potential £270 million to be raised through council tax, the total is close to the £440 million requested by the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) and National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) for 2018/19.
However, the amount provided by central government will fall in real terms as grants are set to remain at 2017 levels.
Mr Dhindsa claimed that insisting PCCs raise additional money through local taxation and not central funding will disadvantage his force, which relies on the police grant for two thirds of its budget and will have to raise more in Council Tax to compensate.
He added that the £12 a year will not have the same impact for all forces; those where Home Office grants make up a greater proportion of budgets will see 'grant stagnation'.
However, Hertfordshire PCC David Lloyd welcomed the funding settlement and said Mr Hurd “has clearly listened very carefully” to forces’ concerns.
Although Mr Lloyd believes PCCs should have full flexibility over Council Tax precept levels, he claims a flat cash increase is fairer than a percentage based one.
A five per cent rise in Hertfordshire would produce an extra £7.60 per Band D property, compared to £9.03 in Derbyshire and £11.23 in Surrey – the area with the highest precept rate.
This five per cent increase would have provided Surrey Police with 2.6 per cent of its net budget requirement (NBR) while Hertfordshire Constabulary would only have received 1.8 per cent.
The new £12 cap will ensure both forces receive 2.8 per cent extra on their NBR.
Northumbria Police – which has the lowest precept in the country at £98.33 – would only gain 0.7 per cent of its NBR through a five per cent increase but this will jump to 1.8 per cent if PCC Dame Vera Baird uses the new power.
Dame Vera has joined Mr Dhindsa in raising concerns about the impact this change will have on members of the public.
She said: “Once again the Government is moving the burden of proper police funding on to Council Tax payers through the police precept.”
West Midlands PCC David Jamieson also criticised the Government for refusing to provide “a single extra penny” itself, leaving forces with a real-terms budget cut unless they increase the Council Tax.
Mr Lloyd said: “I think it is a good settlement, I think the Government has listened, and I am very pleased that it is not just a one-year settlement but is giving us a clear steer for next year as well which allows us to get on and plan.”
Roger Hirst, PCC for Essex and APCC finance lead, said the majority of PCCs will “warmly welcome” the additional flexibility around precept levels.
He said: “We have strongly argued that democratically elected local representatives, such as PCCs, should be able to decide the funding of services in their areas and be held to account by their local communities for the decisions they make.
“However, given the different levels of precept and share of budget accounted for by Council Tax across different forces, we must recognise that some forces still face significant challenges and we look forward to the conclusion of the work on a fairer funding formula ahead of the next spending review.”