Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner -  
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PCC to pay for up to 400 new police officers and double those in Community Policing with 2 pound per month council tax rise
Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, has announced that she is to back recruitment of up to 400 new Police Constables and double the number of PCs in Community Policing across the county as the result of a £2 per month increase in the police share of council tax which was approved by the county’s Police and Crime Panel last night (5 February 2019).

The PCC explained that the number of recruits would be funded as a result of a combination of the unique Special Policing Grant of £4.571m that she won from the Home Office last December and a total of £8m, made up of the police’s council tax precept and Government grants of £1.1 and £1.3m as part of the Policing Settlement for all forces for this financial year, which was also announced in December. The budget also depended on savings from scrutiny of every officer, member of staff and expenditure in 20 departments at Bedfordshire Police so far, which make up half the Force.

She told the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel, who must vote on her budget and precept proposal, that she had been “insistent” that the increase in council tax was not simply used to tackle costs rising with inflation like pay, pensions and insurance, but to deliver a meaningful uplift in officers in visible policing in communities.

“This is why we have agreed a budget which creates 160 new PCs in Bedfordshire in the year 2019-20 and that those going into the eight Community Policing Hubs in towns around the county, will double the available number of PCs already in post in neighbourhood policing. This is a really meaningful uplift and is what everybody tells me they want,” said PCC Holloway.

“I also consider that it would be remiss of me to plan a budget which only deals with the final year of my term in office and am proposing one which will deliver recruitment of 120 more PCs in the year after that - which is 20 more than I’ve already promised, now the budget has been finalised - and for between 100 and 120 for the following year of 2021-22, whatever happens at the ballot box at the next Police and Crime Commissioner election, as a proper plan to secure Bedfordshire Police’s future recruitment.

“Every single community, everywhere I go in the county, wants to see more officers in communities and that is also what I have agreed with the Force, with this very significant uplift in Community Hub officers as it has been imperative to me that people get a change that is palatable to them if having to pay an extra £2 per month,” said Commissioner Holloway.

Chief Finance Officer, Phil Wells, confirmed to the Panel that, without the Special Policing Grant of £4.571m that the Commissioner won in December, far from increasing recruitment, it would have had to stop.

The Commissioner also revealed that Bedfordshire Police is to create a Neighbourhood Intervention Team made up of a Sergeant and nine PCs to move from area to area as trouble shooters following the success of Operation Hilton, to combat drug dealing in Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard, in early autumn 2018.

“The success of Op Hilton, with drug dealers’ doors going in all over Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard to take them out of the picture and disrupt the drug dealing that was making local residents’ lives a misery, was the inspiration for the Neighbourhood Intervention Team. The problem of Op Hilton was that it had to be delivered primarily on overtime which was an expense Bedfordshire Police simply can’t afford every time. The beauty of this proposal is that, as the Force is aware of a pernicious problem in one of our towns or villages, the Neighbourhood Intervention Team can move in to target it and produce similar results as its core, day to day, purpose,” said PCC Holloway.

The proposals were welcomed by Police and Crime Panel members, Cllr. Fiona Chapman and Cllr. Alison Foster with Cllr. Foster saying she had spoken to many residents in Harrold who had said they were prepared to support an extra £2 per month increase per Band D (averagely priced) home. Bedford Borough Cllr. Sarah Jayne (sic) Gallagher said she supported the increase in police numbers but did not support passing the cost on to the local council taxpayer and abstained. Bedford Borough Cllr. Randolph Charles voted for the precept as the only means available to the PCC to raise the number of police officers in the Force. Independent member Damian Warburton also pointed to the rising cost of living and the need for Central Government to put Bedfordshire Police on a sustainable financial footing.

“I entirely agree that continuing to fund improvements in policing through the council tax precept are not sustainable. All this would mean in future would be that those forces with a higher proportion of Band D homes in their county would grow richer while those, like Bedfordshire, with a far smaller number of Band D homes would get poorer, by comparison, and I made the Policing Minister, Nick Hurd, aware of this immediately after he announced this settlement for 2019-20, based on a maximum council tax rise by me of £2 a month,” said Commissioner Holloway.

Independent Chair of the Panel, Paul Cain, said he was being informed daily that other Police and Crime Panels around the country were voting in favour of a £24 per year increase as the only means for Police and Crime Commissioners to fund improvements in policing and an uplift in numbers of officers. He pointed to the work done by Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner to make the Government aware of the plight of Bedfordshire Police.

“I would like to point to the work of our Commissioner as I honestly don’t believe that anyone could have done any more than she has to raise the funding issues of Bedfordshire Police and she has had to do so with more than one Policing Minister and Home Secretary since she came into this role and deserves to be congratulated for this. I can just imagine the Policing Minister, Nick Hurd, cringing every time he hears that it’s Kathryn wanting to talk to him!,” said Paul Cain.

When asked by Damian Warburton if anything more could be done to win more money from Government at this stage, the PCC replied: “I have raised Bedfordshire Police’s case with every Policing Minister, Home Secretary, the Prime Minister, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Chancellor and the Security Minister but, as governments come and go, what’s just as important is that the Police Funding Team of civil servants who are always in place now fully understand the plight of Bedfordshire Police as they had to go over the books to agree the Special Grant of £4.571m and I will be asking them to do so again this year.”

Panel Chair, Paul Cain, spoke of his disappointment that so few Police and Crime Panel members attended the vital annual budget-setting meeting as, without three quarters of the Panel being present, the budget and precept rise had to be voted through in any case. Conservative councillors Paul Downing, Peter Hollick and Ian Delgarno all sent apologies. None of Luton's Labour councillors attended.