WEST NORFOLK: Tax rise or force may be ‘blue light’ only

Stephen Bett Norfolk's new Police and Crime Commissioner
Stephen Bett Norfolk's new Police and Crime Commissioner
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Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner has warned that cuts could reduce the force to a “blue light service to only protect life and property” as he proposes a tax rise.

Stephen Bett is looking to increase the police’s element of the council tax by 1.965 per cent and turn down a Government grant offered for freezes.

Mr Bett believes there will be a £15 million budget shortfall within four years as further government funding cuts are on the way which could impact on frontline services.

His council tax proposal will go before the police and crime panel on Thursday, January 31. The panel has the power to veto the proposal.

Mr Bett said that a “stringent round of savings” are coming from 2015-16 onwards.

He said: “I am not going to say it would be totally disastrous but it is going to be very hard without affecting people as 83 per cent of our budget is people.

“We can only go so far before services get hit in some way or another.

“If cuts are really stringent the police will become a blue light service only to protect life and property rather than do a lot of other things that we do.”

If the proposal goes ahead, the policy levy for Band D properties would be £196.62, which equates to an extra penny a day.

But if the council tax is frozen the Government would pay the force £598,000 in 2013/14 and 2014/15.

Mr Bett said: “I made my pledge plan during the election; implicit in that is the need to ensure the budget can maintain the frontline for the longer-term.

“Whilst it is tempting to take hand-outs, these have an indeterminate lifespan and I do not propose to undermine the safety and security of Norfolk policing by over-reliance on temporary cash.”

Mr Bett has issued his police and crime plan, which the public can comment on until Sunday, February 16.

Issues he has highlighted for West Norfolk include drugs, protecting the vulnerable and working with problem families.

He said: “We are going to have to work with community groups, social services and the NHS to stop people going into crime rather than deal with it after they have offended.

“There is domestic violence and sexual abuse, both of these are under reported so we are led to believe and I would like to get these reported more often so we can intervene early. Domestic violence affects the whole family and can lead to murder.

“If you can get in there before and stop it we can have a better effect on how the families come into the community and society.”

He said that a “wary eye” needs to be kept on the Lynn night life but stated that generally West Norfolk is well served by the police but added: “Like everything else we could always do better. The other problem we have is resources are getting less and less.”

Mr Bett is also trying to ensure that things are less “Norwich-centric”.