Sussex Police and Crime Panel has included an increase in council tax in its Police and Crime and Commissioner’s budget for 2014/15.
The budget presented by Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne at the panel’s meeting on Friday (January 24) will also see investment in victim support, frontline policing and the fight against cyber crime.
Mrs Bourne asked the panel members to approve a budget that would result in a 3.6 per cent increase in the police’s council tax precept - a small part of the overall council tax bill shared by county, borough and parish councils.
This is the first increase for four years, the precept having been frozen since 2010. The increase will add another £4.95 a year to a Band D household bill to £138.42 and will generate £2.8m for police work.
Cllr Chris Dowling, vice chairman of the panel who chaired Friday’s meeting, said: “Agreeing a budget that will increase council tax for residents at a time when councils are working tirelessly to prevent any rise was a very difficult decision for the panel to make and one that wasn’t taken lightly,” said the “Members felt there may have been alternative ways to raise the money needed for investment without burdening the taxpayer. Scrutinising the budget, members asked for a guarantee that other options had been looked at and were satisfied that this was being done.”
The panel questioned the Commissioner on her savings plan, asked whether she had considered diverting money from tackling the types of crime which are falling and queried whether sufficient savings had been made on support staff and processes.
The Commissioner said the additional money would be used to pay for 36 dedicated Sexual Offences Liaison Officers (SOLOs) that would offer support to victims of sexual violence, domestic abuse and child exploitation. She said the addition of the SOLOs would release 9,000 hours of officers’ time for general police work.
Investment would also be made in increasing visible frontline policing, she told the panel. This would include fast-tracking the recruitment and training of 150 police officers in addition to the current plan to recruit 120 Specials and 60 PCSOs in 2014/15.
Finally, the Commissioner said, investment would be made in fighting cyber-enabled crime. Sussex Police would continue to work with Surrey Police to develop a joint Cyber Crime Strategy, train officers and staff in this area and train frontline officers to respond to cyber-enabled crime.
“While we recognise that any increase in precept will impact on residents, we felt the investment detailed by the Police and Crime Commissioner was vital to fund Sussex Police and keep our communities safe,” Cllr Dowling added.
With uncertainty over the level of increase that would trigger the need for a referendum, the panel agreed to a rise of up to 3.6 per cent as long as a referendum was not needed.
The panel also heard reports from the Police and Crime Commissioner on the Police and Crime Plan 2014/15 and an update on plans to replace the retiring Chief Constable of Sussex Police.
To view a webcast of the meeting visit http://www.eastsussex.public-i.tv/core/