Herts Police Comissioner calls for cut in share of council tax
PUBLISHED: 19:30 07 January 2016
A row has broken out over a proposal from the Herts Police Commissioner to reduce the policing share of the council tax bill from April.
Commissioner David Lloyd argues that there is a strong police budget in the county which presents an opportunity to reduce the police precept component of overall council tax bills.
But the Herts Police union Unison described itself as ‘shocked’ that he should put forward such a proposal at a time when there was a continuing need to make savings.
Unison said that increasingly staff and officer workloads were being stretched with increasing demands and last year Herts Police dealt with 10 per cent more emergency and priority incidents than any other comparable forces.
It argues that there is only so much that fewer officers and staff can do before the county police will need to ask what services they can no longer provide to communities in Herts.
Mr Lloyd maintains that continued collaboration between Herts Police and neighbouring forces has generated significant savings and improvements in capacity and capability.
In addition the county force is in a relatively sound financial position with high levels of reserves and a well-developed savings plan.
He said: “Hertfordshire has an extremely high performing police service with a well-developed efficiency programme designed to deliver improved service and save money over the next four years.
“The funding settlement this year is much more favourable than we had planned for but the Home Secretary has rightly stressed that we will continue to be required to deliver our planned savings.”
He said that as a result he had asked the Chief Constable to consider what scope there was for investing additional sums in tackling emerging threats such as cyber crime and in response to areas that the public said were of concern while also looking at ‘an opportunity to reduce the burden on Hertfordshire council taxpayers’.
But Unison believe it would be a retrograde step at a time when the police are still required to make savings and move forward with agreed savings plans.
It says that while it has supported Herts Police in its efforts to save money and prudent financial planning, the effect of pay freezes and stagnant salaries means posts are becoming harder to fill.
Collaboration with two other forces, Beds and Cambs, had seen officers spending large parts of their working day travelling ‘vast distances’ to carry out their jobs, a problem which had been exacerbated by the closure of custody suites in parts of Herts.
That had not only led to increased journeys but also had the knock-on effect of reducing policing availability in areas without custody stations.
In addition enquiry offices had closed and there were now only three police station accessible to the public in the county.
Unison said it accepted that there was no need for the Commissioner to ask for higher rates of police precept but they believed that current levels should be retained.
The Herts police precept amounts to 10 per cent of overall council tax bills.