Report urges greater precept flexibility

Police and crime commissioners (PCCs) should be allowed to scrap the two per cent cap on precept changes and replace it with a fixed cash increase, according to a think-tank.

Dec 15, 2017

Police and crime commissioners (PCCs) should be allowed to scrap the two per cent cap on precept changes and replace it with a fixed cash increase, according to a think-tank. The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) claims PCCs could raise an additional £108.4 million between them if allowed to increase their local council tax rates by 12p per week. It also suggests letting PCCs supplement the change with another 8p per week – raising the total to £180.7 million – providing they match this with a one off-surrender of reserves. The CSJ claims this reform would allow PCCs to raise much of the money they need while also meeting government demands to dip into the £1.6 held in reserves across England and Wales. The CSJ said: “While capping local taxation has shown to be necessary in the past, the current level of cap is holding back the potential for PCCs to make investments in evidence-based interventions that can improve community safety and cut crime. “For many, this lack of flexibility is also impacting on the delivery of proactive policing. “Now is an opportune time for government to move towards enabling PCCs to invest in programmes and resources that go beyond simply reacting to crime and growing demands, and move into more preventative and proactive efforts to improve community safety.” The current two per cent cap was introduced in 2010 to limit Police Authorities’ unchecked ability to increase their element of the council tax. This reached a peak in 2003/4 when the average precept rate rose by more than 25 per cent. Since then, the core grant given to policing has reduced while the level of demand on the service has increased. Forces are also expected to fund the latest one per cent ‘bonus’ awarded on top of the one per cent pay rise out of their own budgets. The CSJ’s proposals mirror calls from David Lloyd, chair of the Association of PCCs, who has asked the government for more flexibility in the amount by which forces can change the precept. However, the think-tank has also recommended allowing PCCs in the ten lowest precept areas to make the 20 per cent increase without surrendering any of their reserves. The police grant allocations for next year are due to be announced before Parliament rises for Christmas.

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