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Cost of county policing to go up this year

Monday, 20th February 2012.

The police are goinbg to cost us another fiver or so on our council tax this year.

Suffolk Police Authority today agreed a 3.65 per cfent increase in its element of council tax.

The authority said the decision underlined its commitment to maintaining an effective policing service for Suffolk – by agreeing a financial plan which will make multi-million pound savings while securing police officer numbers in the future.

Members agreed a revenue budget of £112.2 million for policing Suffolk in 2012/13.

To balance the books during the course of the year, the constabulary will have to make more than £7 million in savings – part of an on-going four-year plan to 2014/15 to make cuts now estimated at £17.7 million.

Included in the budget is a council tax precept increase of 3.75 per cent for the police’s part of the council tax.

The increase was agreed unanimously after members considered and rejected an option to freeze council tax at last year’s level and accept a one-off government grant of £1.25million for one year only.

Members heard from Chief Constable Simon Ash that if council tax were frozen in 2012/13, it would result in the loss of at least £1.6million in funding in subsequent years because the Government grant would be a one-off payment.

This would mean that Suffolk’s police officer numbers would remain below 1,200 in the years ahead, which the Chief Constable warned would place significant strains on operational capability and quality of service.

However, the decision to support a precept increase will generate an extra £1.55 million in 2012/13 and set the constabulary on a path which will re-build officer numbers from their current level of 1,167 to more than 1,200 over the next few years.

Police authority chair Joanna Spicer said: “Today’s budget and council tax decisions weren’t just about Suffolk’s policing service in the year ahead – but also putting safeguards in place for the future.

“The decisions were always going to be difficult. We have had to balance the need to continue along the path of making severe cuts while ensuring we maintain an efficient and effective policing service for local people.

“Thoughout our debates, we have been mindful of the financial pressures facing Suffolk’s council tax payers – and I know that today’s decision for a small increase may disappoint some people.

“However, it is important to understand that we were facing a stark choice – and we all agreed the importance of maintaining the long-term resilience of the constabulary and its capability to provide a good quality policing service.”

The approval of the budget not only means the constabulary can look to re-build its police officer numbers but also bring additional staff into the force operations room to cope with additional demand in answering emergency calls from the public.

Today’s meeting also saw both the constabulary’s savings plan and capital programme approved.

The savings plan is built largely around planned collaboration with Norfolk Constabulary, which involves the formation of joint units in areas including protective services and business support. It is anticipated that this will generate savings of more than £4.5million in the year ahead.

The capital programme includes money to fund the on-going project to move officers and staff to Landmark House, in collaboration with Suffolk County Council, which will replace Ipswich Police Station, as well as finance for a new command and control system which will ensure the effective deployment of joint units operating across Suffolk and Norfolk.

There is also £2.45 million set aside in the capital programme over the next three years to provide new police bases in towns where ageing police stations, which are no longer fit-for-purpose, will be sold off to generate capital receipts estimated at £6.4 million.

The increase of 3.75 per cent in the police’s part of the council tax means that its charge for a band D property this year will be £166.77, an increase of £6.03 for the year.

Haverhill Online News

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