Last week, Sussex’s Police and Crime Commissioner passed their Budget for 2017/18. This, along with ‘holding the Chief Constable to account’, is essentially the only power they have, for which local taxpayers pay them £85,000 a year. I’ve had my doubts Police Commissioners from the start, the fact that only 14% of voters in Crawley turned out for their initial election in 2012 suggests I’m not alone in my scepticism. Like most services, the Government’s grant to Sussex Police has faced significant cuts over the last seven years. However, the Government has given the Police the ability to increase their part of Council Tax for 2017/18 to a level which means that next year they will have the same income in cash terms as they did this year. There are problems with shifting the burden of taxation away from Income Tax, which is based on what you earn, towards Council Tax, which is based on what the value of the property you are living in would have been worth in 1991, but at the end of the day this means the Police don’t have to make any cuts greater than the value of inflation.
So, looking through the Police Commissioner’s Budget it came as a surprise that while they are indeed increasing their share of Council Tax by the maximum allowed, not only are they cutting the funding for Local Policing—the bobby on the beat—by £12.4m but at the same time they’re running a surplus of £5.2m, with a further cut of £9.1m the following year and a projected surplus of £8.8m. In other words, while your Council Tax is going up and your local policing is being cut, the Police and Crime Commissioner is putting millions aside. Not unreasonably, non-Tory members of the Police and Crime Panel felt they couldn’t support this. Frankly, it’s hard to see how the Police Commissioner can justify attempts to take control of our Fire Service while they are making apparently unnecessary cuts to frontline policing. For £85,000 a year they should get their current job right before asking for another one.