Norfolk Police will still need to make savings if tax rises, chief constable warns

Simon Bailey, nominated Chief Constable for Norfolk ENGANL00120130920161437
Simon Bailey, nominated Chief Constable for Norfolk ENGANL00120130920161437

Police chiefs have warned they will still have to make budget cuts even if a proposed increase in council tax is approved.

Senior officers yesterday set out their case for an increase during a public meeting in King’s Lynn’s town hall.

The meeting, which was attended by around 10 councillors and residents, supported the idea of an increase of just under two per cent, rather than a freeze.

The event was held as part of an ongoing public consultation launched by Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner, Stephen Bett, earlier this month.

Residents have until next Friday, January 29, to have their say on whether the police portion of the council tax should be raised by just under two per cent or frozen.

The force says that would add just over £4 to the annual bill of a resident of an average band D property.

And chief constable Simon Bailey said the extra money would enable him to invest in key areas of growing service demand, such as the investigation of domestic violence and child sexual abuse.

He said: “My request to the commissioner is a very strong one that he should seek to raise the precept again.

“We have had to strip out some of our neighbourhood officers. That is a retrograde step and I need to invest in the vulnerability team.”

But he added: “We have got a good policing service and I will do everything I can to make sure we maintain that going forward.”

Around 40 per cent of police funding is drawn from the council tax, with the remainder being drawn from central government grants.

In November, chancellor George Osborne announced that government funding of the police would be protected in a move that appeared to end fears of further severe cuts to the service.

But it subsequently emerged that the protection depended on police commissioners taking up the option of raising the police portion of the council tax.

And a report presented to the meeting said the force would still have to make savings even if a precept increase is approved.

The document said £1.3 million of savings would need to be found in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 financial years with a further £1.7 million in 2019-20.

However, those figures rise to £3.6 million, £4.9 million and £6.6 million respectively if the tax is frozen.

The meeting was also told that a review of policing structures, Norfolk 2020, is continuing despite the government U-turn on police funding.

John Hummersone, chief finance officer for the police and the commissioner’s office, said the force had been preparing for a “hammering” before the announcement.

The review, which was set up last September to find ways of reducing service costs, will now examine where further investment can be made in front-line services.

Final police budget proposals are due to be debated at a meeting of Norfolk’s police and crime panel on February 2.