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Police and Crime Panel approves council tax rise

Households in Devon and Cornwall will pay on average an extra £3.31 a year after the Police and Crime Panel today (Friday) approved Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Hogg’s budget and a 1.99 per cent increase in the policing precept for 2015/16.

Speaking directly after the unanimous vote, OPCC Chief Executive Andrew White said: “We are delighted that the strength of the case that we put to the Police and Crime Panel has been accepted and understood by every member of the panel.

“We don’t make this increase lightly. It’s important that whenever you make an increase in council tax that it is well understood the reasons for it and the Panel has understood that we have got a very serious need to increase the base budget and meet the cuts that are being imposed on us to ensure that we can keep effective policing in Devon and Cornwall.”

In the short term, today’s decision will ensure that officer numbers will remain above 3,000 and there will be no loss of PCSO’s until at least 2016.

“It means that we can maintain current levels of front-line policing requirement so, we will maintain levels of service, of police officers and PCSOs out in the community and that’s really important,” said Mr White.

“It also allows us to start investing in some of those new and difficult areas such as child and sexual exploitation and cyber crime, those difficult places where we are getting extra demands on policing and the public are getting very concerned.

“We have got a plan for the next year for the chief constable to be able to do that really well.

“We’ve got to find £29m of budget savings over the next four years  and that’s an enormous task. We have a plan to do that but that plan won’t be easy and we need to ensure that we keep our council tax base going at the same time.

“But you will see changes emerge in the way that Devon and Cornwall is policed over the next four years but it will still be effective while we have this governance and leadership in place.”

Mr Hogg has previously warned that he may ask the public for a much larger increase in future years, as the funding gap widens further, putting hundreds of police officer, PCSO and staff jobs at risk. 

A rise above 2 per cent would require a public referendum and Mr White suggested that significant consultation with the public to discuss that possibility was likely.

 “The commissioner will certainly want to start a discussion with the public about how they want to see policing develop across Devon and Cornwall and we do have a very stark choice – would the public be prepared to pay more to get a higher level of policing presence throughout Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly,” he said.

 “That is going to be a complex and difficult discussion but its a discussion that we will have with the public over the next year coming and I don’t know where that will go but the commissioner wants to get a sense from the public is how much do they want increased levels of policing and if so are they willing to pay for it.

“But for the time being we have gone for this 1.99% increase which will make a small difference to people’s council tax bills.”

Below Tony Hogg talks about the policing budget and the difficult decisions faced in coming years.