A BOROUGH councillor in Rugby has slammed a ‘stealth council tax rise’ aimed at keeping police on the beat – a result of budget cuts which could still see up to 52 officers in Warwickshire lose their jobs.
Warwickshire Police faces a real-terms cut of £950,000, accounting for inflation, after the Government announced a freeze on police budgets this year.
Existing budgets and savings plans would mean around 70 officers would be lost in Warwickshire.
But Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) are being allowed to raise their percentage of the council tax precept.
A tax hike of £12 per year on an average Band D property could mean the force keeping 33 of the under threat officers, while £10 per would equate to around 25, and £8 to around 18.
Rugby Liberal Democrats, who want to increase community policing by investing an extra £300 million a year in local police forces, branded the plan a ‘stealth council tax rise’.
Borough Councillor Bill Lewis said: “The Conservatives are ignoring calls from senior officers to increase investment in our police.
“The impact of this cut in police budgets will be felt in our communities and in our streets. With crime rising, the Government should have increased police budgets in real terms.”
Figures released by the Office of National Statistics last year showed crime in Warwickshire had risen by 24 per cent in the 12 months to June.
Government cuts since 2010 have resulted in 138 fewer police officers in Warwickshire.
Rugby MP Mark Pawsey said patterns of criminal behaviour were changing, and much of the increases in crime were due to improvements to recording practices and increased willingness of victims to come forward.
He added: “I am pleased overall police spending has been protected in real terms over the Spending Review period. This amounts to an increase of £900million for the police by 2019-20. The National Crime Agency’s budget has also been protected and an additional £50million of funding has been provided for counter-terrorism policing.
“However, the Government has also given PCCs greater flexibility to raise additional funding. This will help ensure that our local police officers have the resources they need to keep communities safe.”
Warwickshire Police Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe, who is asking residents for their views, remains hopeful even more officers could be kept with a continued focus on making savings.
He said: “The simple reality is that the police require more funding just to maintain current service levels.
“I am not in a position to be able to freeze the police precept once again. To do so would leave the force with a significant shortfall in funding and some very unpalatable decisions to make over a reduced level of service to the public.
“I am therefore proposing to increase the police precept. I know these remain difficult financial times for many people and that’s why I have put forward a number of options, with varying levels of increase.”
Mr Seccombe added the consultation was to gauge public opinion on the three options, but the final decision remained with him.
Visit www.warwickshire-pcc.gov.uk/preceptsurvey to comment. The consultation will close on Friday January 19.