Lincolnshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner is looking to raise his force’s part of the council tax precept by a staggering 11 per cent — but he says he still will not be able to meet the shortfall in funding.
PCC Marc Jones has taken advantage of a government relaxation on tax policy for this year which allows an increase of up to £24 for a Band D property — his increase equates to £23.94, just 6p off that figure.
It is estimated the rise will bring in £5,495,000 more than 2018/19.
In a report before the Lincolnshire Police and Crime Panel, Marc Jones will tell councillors that despite the rise: “I will be unable to bridge the funding gap for 2019/20 without using my remaining reserves available for budgetary support, and requiring the Chief Constable to make savings.”
He says that £1 million of reserves and £3.2 million budget savings will still be required to start addressing a potential gap of £6.9 million by 2022/23.
Mr Jones warned: “To achieve financial balance beyond 2019/20, it is clear that, without a more equitable slice of the national police grant, or substantial precept rises in future years, Lincolnshire would see significant degradation of service.
“That would undoubtedly take the form of fewer police officers, Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs), and the staff who support them.”
The budget will include £900,000 for victims’ services, £600,000 for crime and disorder reduction grants, a total of £56.4 million will be spent on police officer salaries and £3.2 million on PCSO salaries.
Mr Jones said that by 2022/23 the force will target a workforce of 1,100 officers — but warned that funding levels “dictate reductions below this level are required to balance the budget”.
Mr Jones told Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Jaines the decision to “increase the burden on hard pressed taxpaying residents is a huge responsibility and one I do not take lightly”.
“The results of my extensive crime and policing survey, one of the most comprehensive ever carried out in Lincolnshire, make clear the overwhelming majority of residents living in all types of property, of all ages, genders and locations across the county support the change proposed or indeed an even greater increase,” he said.
“With prudent use of reserves and investment in the right tools for the job the Chief Constable and I have been able to maximise the number of officers available to bear down on crime, keeping Lincolnshire one of the safest places to live in the country.
“With reserves exhausted and the long-awaited funding distribution review from Government still under discussion, it would not be possible to maintain the high standards that our communities deserve from Lincolnshire Police without additional support from all of us through our council tax contributions.
“Even with the proposed changes, there remains a huge challenge for the Chief in managing increased cost pressures with the lowest amount of funding per head of population of any force in England.
“I never lose sight of the fact that every penny spent delivering policing in Lincolnshire comes from the pockets of hard working taxpayers and my commitment to spending that money effectively and making our communities feel and be safe will remain my priority for as long as I have the honour to remain Police and Crime Commissioner for Lincolnshire.”
His report does praise the new Command and Control system, which he says will enable better use of resources, and investment to improve staff productivity.
According to a consultation from Mr Jones completed in January, of the 3,449 responses received, 83 per cent said funding should be increased.
Only 15 per cent of respondents said they would pay no more than a 10 per cent increase in the precept, nearly a fifth would not pay a rise of 15 per cent and the figure jumped to 39 per cent when a rise of 20 per cent was suggested.
Only 16 per cent of people said they would not be prepared to pay any more at all, while two per cent of respondents called for a reduction.
The PCC’s report says that he would currently be targeting a two per cent rise next year.
The £24 increase for band D properties would add to the £60.93 increase to council tax planned by Lincolnshire County Council, plus increases by district councils (North Kesteven is proposing a £4.95 increase) and parish councils (Sleaford Town Council proposes a £2 rise). Meaning average bills are expected to rise by just short of £100 for the coming year.