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Battle to keep Westcountry bobbies on beat with 2% rise in council tax

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 01, 2013

Police hat-1

Mr Hogg said accepting the Government's tax freeze deal would damage frontline policing in the Westcountry

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Police and crime commissioner Tony Hogg is pushing for a 2% rise in council tax to keep more bobbies on the beat in Devon and Cornwall.

Mr Hogg said accepting the Government's tax freeze deal would damage frontline policing in the Westcountry.

The force has already shrunk from 3,500 to 3,100 officers, while more than 500 police staff have also been lost, since Government cuts were imposed two years ago.

And it had been forecast that numbers would decline even further by 2016 to just over 2,800 – a level last seen in the 1980s.

But in detailed budget proposals tabled last night, Mr Hogg outlined how with an additional 2% from the taxpayer he could maintain police officer numbers at more than 3,000 while also retaining 380 community support officers and recruiting an extra 50 "specials" a year.

His 2% proposals fly in the face of pressure from Ministers to keep bills down.

However, Conservative Mr Hogg said accepting the Government's offer of freezing council tax in exchange for a 1% increase in grant, would leave the force facing a "fiscal cliff" in two years' time and an annual shortfall of £1.8 million.

"The impact of this option would be that I would be unable to deliver the police and crime plan," his report said.

"There would be a critical reduction in pro-active crime reduction, there would be a critical reduction in partnership, community and early intervention activity (and) there would be a critical reduction in police visibility and hence reassurance to the public."

If approved by the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Panel, which is charged with holding Mr Hogg to account and meets a week today, the police share of council tax bills for Band D properties would rise by £3.19 to £162.92 a year.

"Until this year's settlement the force have been assuming officer numbers would reduce to just over 2,800 by 2016," Mr Hogg's report to the panel said.

"In that scenario, once the force have calculated minimum response and CID levels, only 125 staff would be available for neighbourhoods.

"The chief constable has concluded that there is no credible way of spreading 125 staff over 4,000 square miles and still provide an effective neighbourhood presence.

"Furthermore, the chief constable believes that at that level he would have to withdraw from proactive crime prevention work, significantly reduce local visibility (and) withdraw support from local partnership and community groups.

"This budget proposal provides an alternative, providing for the maintenance of police officer numbers at over 3,000 for the next four years, and a real opportunity to maintain those numbers beyond that point."

Mr Hogg said he wants to "arrest the decline in police officer numbers" and "maintain visibility especially in rural areas".

Devon and Cornwall Police has been faced with making budget savings of £50 million in the four years to 2016 to meet Government cuts.

While hundreds of police officers were being forced to retire, crime in the two counties spiked by an unprecedented 7% – a trend which is now being reversed.

The pensions regulation, which compulsorily made officers retire after 30 years' service, was suspended last September after greater savings were achieved than had been expected.

That trend is thought to have continued and given Mr Hogg more financial flexibility in his first budget.

He is also proposing to use £4.3 million from reserves to top the total budget up to £288.6 million.

The police and crime panel, which is made up of local councillors and some independents, meets in Plymouth on February 8 when it will also discuss the appointment of Shaun Sawyer as the force's new chief constable.

The committee has the power to veto Mr Hogg's proposed budget and his choice of chief constable.

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13 comments

  • JeremyBadger  |  February 03 2013, 11:52PM

    Just like the rest of the Tories.........says he won't do something then weeks after gaining power goes back on his word, what would we expect?

    |   2
  • Doitdreckley  |  February 01 2013, 6:29PM

    Cottage farm ignorance: a 63 year old police officer is about as useful as a chocolate teapot.

    |   -4
  • marty1981  |  February 01 2013, 5:28PM

    It's interesting that all these comments paint the police as overpaid and lazy, when I'm sure none of you have any idea how hard they work, or how overstretched they are with the current numbers. Let alone the horrific things they have to deal with and put up with, or the 24 hour nature of the job. A huge amount of work has been done to make processes as efficient as possible, and there's not a lot more that can be done to save money. But hey, I suppose the police are always going to be hated by most people, because most people are utterly ignorant as to how much work they actually do to protect the public.

    |   4
  • jimjams2011  |  February 01 2013, 5:21PM

    Perhaps if Mr Hogg felt that strongly about this we could abolish the recently unwanted post of 'crime commissioner's that garner £85k a year and put that towards 5 entry level Police Community Support Officers.

    |   5
  • jimjams2011  |  February 01 2013, 5:17PM

    Tim Hogg is on a salary of £85,000. 2% may be not much for him but is a lot for people on low incomes. If the council utilised the money it was given effectively and stopped wasting money on the contracts it signs up to as well as stopped paying over the odds when procuring things then it would have more money. The fact of the matter is that there is no evidence that we need these additional 'bobbies'

    |   4
  • Cadorpendry  |  February 01 2013, 4:09PM

    It is amazing that articles like this are still being written, especially considering that the public confidence in the police, especially Devon and Cornwall Constabulary, is at an all time low and that last year despite the scaremongering by the police and the press that crime would go up. it actually went down. It was noted in this article there was yet again an element of unecessary scaremongering; when it was stated that 'There would be a critical reduction in pro-active crime reduction, there would be a critical reduction in partnership, community and early intervention activity (and) there would be a critical reduction in police visibility and hence reassurance to the public".... What bloody reassurance! What community activities! What partnerships! They are VERY rarlely on foot patrol - Devon and Cornwall Constabulary are either very good at camouflage and concealment, or more likely skulking in the station or driving around in their cars. Community activities are undertaken by local volunteers NOT the police and all early intervention is also undertaken by an army of UNPAID volunteers. The bitter truth is that they are actually neither use nor ornament! The private sector is now the way, the only viable way, forward.

    |   -3
  • oldjamaica  |  February 01 2013, 2:38PM

    The ratepayer is already paying far too much for a substandard police service(H.M.inspector of constabulary opinion) .There should be no increase. Also, i would like to know..1) how man officers are on long term sick leave. 2) how many officers have criminal records(there should be none) 3) how many have second jobs

    |   3
  • Cottage Farm Organics  |  February 01 2013, 1:55PM

    The police and crime panel should veto this absurd proposal.

    |   3
  • Cottage Farm Organics  |  February 01 2013, 1:53PM

    The police is over paid, have over generous pensions and are allowed to retire after just 30 years (or in early 50s) or earlier if they are under investigation, in which case they are no longer punishable. I have an idea: cut their salary to match average wage in Cornwall, allow retirement after 45 years and set their pension at 35% of their average salary. If in addition you replace their cars and equipment not every two years, but every five years, you can probably HALF the police budget. How about it, Mr Hogg?

    |   3
  • twofeetofsnow  |  February 01 2013, 12:51PM

    Bobbies on the beat? Does our PCC think we've travelled back in time to the 1960's? Next thing will be village bobbies on bicycles and police boxes on street corners. Cornwall Council putting 2% on the council tax won't make Devon and Cornwall Constabulary rush out and recruit, their website currently states "Devon and Cornwall Police currently have a recruitment freeze. This includes the recruiting of Transferees. We do not expect to review the situation until April 2013 although during this time we will continue to monitor any developments." I can only reason that this means more bobbies on the beat equals fewer sitting behind desks in stations, can the PCC tell us why this will cost more money if the extra bobbies are already on the payroll?

    |   9

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