With his next meeting with the county’s Police and Crime Panel fast-approaching, Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner will soon be putting together his final proposals for how our police service will be funded next year.
The big question on Stephen Bett’s mind is whether to increase Council Tax by 2% (equivalent to 8p per week at Band D) or leave it at last year’s level – something on which he is keen to hear the views of Norfolk’s communities.
“Setting the police budget is an incredibly important part of the role of Police and Crime Commissioners, especially with how bleak the current financial outlook is”, said Stephen. “Our resources are stretched and financial plans indicate a funding shortfall of up to £20 million over the next four years. But yet demand on policing services is not letting up and the challenges we are facing, particularly around reducing vulnerability and tackling crimes like serious sexual offences, domestic violence and child exploitation, are growing.
“I have listened carefully to the Chief Constable on what he needs in order to maintain the quality of policing services delivered in Norfolk and meet emerging demands. And I am listening just as carefully to what communities are telling me they are prepared to pay to help fund those services – I appreciate times are hard for many in our county and any increase to their outgoings is far from ideal.
“It’s these two sets of information that will ultimately inform the decision I take to the Panel at the end of the month, so it is vitally important communities take the opportunity to have their say – there is still time.”
Stephen is running a survey on his website to find out whether local people would support a Council Tax increase. The survey consists of just two questions and offers respondents the chance to share any additional comments with their Police and Crime Commissioner. “I am really pleased with the level of response to the survey so far”, he said. “There’s been a real mix of opinions. I would like to hear from even more people and I urge anyone with a view on this subject to take the survey.”
Here are some of things you have been telling Stephen:
- “Good policing costs and we are aware that the government is cutting. No Police or Fire cuts please.” (King’s Lynn/West Norfolk)
- “Make do with less – the rest of us have to.” (respondent in South Norfolk)
- “We are one of the lowest crime areas in the country, this helps in terms of inward investment to the county. I for one want to keep it that way, and to increase council tax by 2%.” (Breckland)
- “It was raised last year. I do not agree with another police increase.” (Great Yarmouth)
- “The Police in general do a good job but I do not think the Council Tax should be increased”. (Broadland)
- “Personally I am willing and able to pay more to preserve public services but I worry for those who can barely pay their bills.” (North Norfolk)
- “I want my money spent policing my town not spent in the city.” (South Norfolk)
- “I know 8p a week doesn’t sound much but faced with pay which has been frozen for three years and increases above inflation on all other bills, especially utilities, it is difficult to defend any increase in the council tax.” (South Norfolk)
- “I would like to see more support for victims of sexual offences, especially in the case of historic child sex abuse, also more support for all vulnerable victims.” (King’s Lynn/West Norfolk)
- “I know that funding shortfalls will hit the police force hard, but by increasing the police part of the council tax shows that you have no respect for the general public. We are all in this together, things are tough let’s be honest. No increase this year but a 2% increase next year would be acceptable.” (Norwich)
- “We must to be ready to pay for policing. This is not a high price to pay if it delivers a safe society.” (Norwich).
Paper copies can be provided for those who would prefer to take the survey that way by calling the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner on (01953) 424455.
The survey will run until 29 January 2014. Stephen will meet with the Police and Crime Panel on 31 January 2014.
Edit: 30 January – The survey has now closed and the results will be published shortly.