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Two per cent tax rise will keep police on the beat in Devon and Cornwall

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 09, 2013

Comments (9)

Taxpayers in Devon and Cornwall are to pay an extra 2% for policing next year after Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Hogg's first budget was approved.

Mr Hogg had unveiled his proposals last week saying that accepting the Government's tax freeze deal would damage frontline policing.

His budget plan, which will maintain police officer numbers at more than 3,000 while also retaining 380 community support officers and recruiting an extra 50 "specials" a year, was though subject to the approval of the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Panel.

It met in Plymouth yesterday, and after a two-and-a-half hour debate, which included discussion of Mr Hogg's strategic crime plan, passed the tax increase by 15 votes to one.

"We believed that not raising the police part of the council tax during the next financial year would have a major impact on policing in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly," Mr Hogg said after the decision.

"It would have meant that officer numbers may have fallen to well below 3,000.

"We are working hard to maintain officer numbers at their current levels and there was a real need for the force to increase funds to be able do this."

The decision means that the police share of council tax bills for Band D properties will rise by £3.19 to £162.92 next year – the second lowest rate in the South West and slightly below the national average.

With £4.3 million being taken from reserves, the total budget for 2013-14 will be £288.6 million.

Mr Hogg added: "The budget is there to make sure the police force in Devon and Cornwall is fit for the future and the many challenges they face.

"An essential element of today is our effort to halt or arrest the decline in police officer numbers for as long as we can.

"There were Government options in terms of funding which we declined to take this time because it is really important that we build the foundations of the funding base for policing going forward.

"It enables us to arrest the decline in police officer numbers and therefore have higher visibility because these are the things that the public really want.

"It also enables us to invest in policing, in technology and training, and in the public service we offer. So, in the round, to me it is an excellent decision.

"It is now up to us to deliver a high standard of policing."

In the last two years Devon and Cornwall Police has shrunk from 3,500 to 3,100 officers, with more than 500 civilian staff also being cut as the force saved £32 million to meet Government targets.

The plan, with a further £7.5 million savings to be found in 2013-14, had been to keep reducing officer strength, eventually falling to 2,800 – a level last seen in the 1980s.

While the 2% hike was approved against Government pressure to keep bills down, Mr Hogg's budget report had painted a grim picture of taking the Government's offer of freezing council tax in exchange for a 1% increase in grant.

It would have left the force with just 125 officers on neighbourhood policing to cover communities spread over 4,000 square miles.

Mr Hogg also predicted a "critical reduction in pro-active crime reduction" and in police visibility.

The commissioner's police and crime plan, in which Mr Hogg has pledged to put victims at the heart of, was also discussed at length by the panel.

It shone a light on another reorganisation of the force, to a "geographical" model which it tore up in May 2010 to move to the "functional" model which promised to deliver the necessary savings.

What went with it was the traffic department, with busy response officers expected to patrol the network when they were not dealing with 999 calls.

The changes have coincided with a worrying increase in fatal accidents although senior officers have always denied that the two are linked.

Mr Hogg, however, yesterday alluded to a possible U-turn by the constabulary with 120 officers "being biased towards roads policing but without creating a traffic department" but did not elaborate further.

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  • johnselekta  |  February 10 2013, 8:52PM

    Can't remember the last time I saw a police officer walking the beat anywhere in this country. What does he mean KEEP them on the beat? Keep their speed cameras fed with film more like.

    Rate   -1
  • twain1  |  February 09 2013, 11:21PM

    We've never been as safe yet we need to make policing an exception in austerity; I for one reject the undemocratic tax increase. What will this buy more tasers which have slipped in unchallenged? More armed officers? Armed against who? More black uniforms? Return to policing by consent and not some paramilitary response unit.

    Rate   -5
  • NBG1971  |  February 09 2013, 4:32PM

    i would willing pay the extra :) but i have rarely seen a bobby on the "beat" ...more like sat in cars and offices...they just get the free Special constables to walk the beats! that is all :)

    Rate   4
  • Cottage Farm Organics  |  February 09 2013, 2:44PM

    Let me see, Crime is falling, police are paid well above Cornish wages, police retire in their early fifties on enormous pensions - and now they want more? What nonsense. I sincerely hope that the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Panel will reject this silly proposal. What we need is: fewer police since crime is falling, police working on Cornish wages and retire in their late sixties on unprotected pensions (just like the rest of us).

    Rate   -4
  • MrMikeHunt  |  February 09 2013, 2:17PM

    I voted for Tony Hogg in the election. The national press ran a campaign telling people not to vote. If you still believe everything the press tell you , you will never get what you want in life.

    Rate   2
  • twofeetofsnow  |  February 09 2013, 12:40PM

    So, we have an unknown and unelected Police Commissioner in the job for a short time, not so much a voice for the public in local policing but another level of tax collection it seems. If Mr Hogg is so concerned that shortage of funding will affect frontline services, why doesn't he follow the example of the Special Constabulary and volunteer his services unpaid? I am sure more people would listen to his views if they thought he was doing the work for something other than the handsome salary.

    Rate   6
  • ThatsYourWife  |  February 09 2013, 11:48AM

    Of course he has a mandate, he was voted in in a democratic election, just because you didn't vote for him or couldn't be bothered to vote. You don't always get your own way in democracy but not taking part and then complaining about who was elected is very juvenile. I'm with Boss Hogg, now if only we can get the criminal justice system to take crime seriously. Go get'um boss hogg.

    Rate   -4
  • NonEmmit  |  February 09 2013, 11:24AM

    This man has NO electoral mandate to do anything. Get rid of the commissioners another bunch of useless politicians, use there inflated salaries towards the extra for Policing

    Rate   4
  • Rockall2011  |  February 09 2013, 10:18AM

    Funding across local and central government is not an easy issue at the moment but it's all very well for Mr Hogg, Police Commissioner without a mandate, on his vast salary to propose what may well seem a fairly small additional charge, but for many in our society this may just tip them over the edge, especially given his fellow Conservatives' fiscal policies nationally. One proposal for funding such services that really needs to be better explored is a national tax on financial transactions (Robin Hood Tax), such as has been agreed by the majority of EU members. David Cameron was one of the very few to resist this. Only a very small charge would nett millions, if not billions, and obviate the need for many of the cutbacks which are coming home to roost as we see with the horse meat scandal.

    Rate   10