A RISE in the police council tax precept proposed for the Isle of Wight has been blamed on government cuts.
Newly elected police and crime commissioner Simon Hayes announced today (Monday) that he proposed to increase the police share of the Council Tax bill by 3.4 per cent, equivalent to 10p a week for a Band D property.
Mr Hayes said: "This is the first time in two years the policing element of the Council Tax has risen, but I have been left with no choice.
"Each year of a Council Tax freeze creates additional financial pressure in the short and medium term.
"The Government’s reward for freezing the Council Tax does not cover the lost income.
"In the past two years, an extra £5.5m has needed to be found to cover the shortfall.
"That position cannot continue if people want to carry on receiving a top standard of service from their police service and their crime concerns to be addressed."
As well as raising Council Tax, he said the force would continue to make savings.
"There have already been £36m of savings in the past two years, but the people of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight have said they want to see a reduction in crime and better service for victims and witnesses.
"How that will be achieved will be set out in my Police and Crime Plan to be published by the end of March, but Government cutbacks have meant I can’t achieve my priorities without raising the policing element of the Council Tax bill."
"We are not alone in raising Council Tax levels. Last year, 24 out of 43 forces chose not to freeze the level because of the short term nature of the grant and the long term impact of continued freezes. The previous Police Authority held off for as long as possible, but now I am in office, I need to make the tough decisions to protect our communities. Even with a 3.4% rise, Hampshire is likely to remain in the bottom quartile of shire policing bodies for council tax precept," he said.
There has also been a 25 per cent drop in the money available from government for the community safety fund.
That budget, also administrated by Mr Hayes, has fallen to £1.46m.
Mr Hayes said: "We need to be fair about the way this reduced pool of money is distributed.
"Some people will be disappointed, but with a smaller overall pot to distribute from, there are some tough decisions to be made."
Chairman of the Hampshire Police and Crime Panel, Isle of Wight Councillor David Stewart, said: "The panel felt it was important the Police and Crime Commissioner justify his decision to ask for a precept increase.
"In the current economic climate, when we are all having to manage our finances carefully, the panel will be closely monitoring how this money is now spent to support delivery of the Police and Crime Plan, which itself will come under scrutiny at the next panel meeting in March.
"We are aware of the ongoing and increasing financial pressures that will impact on the community in the future, and the panel is determined to continue to challenge, through scrutiny, the Police and Crime Commissioner as he delivers on his commitments."