Posted: Tuesday 19th February 2013
Last week I set the police budget, freezing the policing part of the council tax and protecting the frontline. I was fully aware during the campaign trail that any increase in the council tax would be felt by hard-pressed households. When I was speaking to residents many of them told me that they did not want to see any rise. This is something I pledged in the campaign and I believe it is still the right thing to do as explained to the Police and Crime Panel (PCP).
Many people are not quite sure what the Police and Crime Panel does; it is made up of 15 councillors from all five of the local authority areas of Avon and Somerset and three independent members from the local community. Although it has a similar make up to the Police Authority it does not scrutinise the Constabulary, the Panel is there to scrutinise me the PCC. It has two powers of veto on a two-third majority, firstly the Chief Constables appointment and secondly the policing part of the council tax. Although 11 of the panel wanted to reject the freeze, that was insufficient for the veto.
I did carefully consider the Panels views however in accepting the freeze I can now take a Government grant which is equivalent to a 1% rise. I accept that this is not sustainable in the longer term but equally I could not turn down Government money and pass that burden onto households, particularly given the fact that there is no time to further consult with you over these plans, beyond the election campaign. I cannot promise council tax freezes for the next three years given the substantial amount of cuts in funding but what I can promise it to make sure that I undertake proper consultation with you about any possible future rises.
In my last column I spoke about the great work and dedication of our PCSOs. The Mayor George Ferguson in his budget review had proposed to cut the 30 PCSOs that Bristol City Council fund. While I understand the difficult decision and savings that Bristol has to make I was clear that PCSOs do more than just police work they are a reassuring presence in our local area dealing with many community safety issues. I am pleased to say that following negotiations we have reached a compromise proposal where Bristol will fund 20 of the PCSOs and we will fund 10, making a total of 90 that are funded by the police. This proposal is for 2013/14 but I will look for a solution with the Mayor for the next three years, to offer our PCSOs and our communities the long-term reassurance they deserve.
Finally I will remind readers that there is just less than one-week left to have your say on your first Police & Crime Plan at www.consultation.avonandsomerset.police.uk or by calling 01275 816377. I have enjoyed being on the road over the past two weeks and listening to residents and hearing about their policing priorities. I will continue to visit communities one day a week and if there is project or initiative that you would like me to see please contact me on 01275 816377 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time.