Festus Akinbusoye, Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Bedfordshire, has welcomed support from the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel to increase the police precept for 2022/23.
Panel members from Bedford Borough Council, Luton Borough Council, Central Bedfordshire Council, and the independent members voted to increase the precept that helps to fund Bedfordshire Police with nine members in favour, zero against and zero abstentions.
The decision to recommend an increase of £10 per band D property was made by the PCC following a public consultation that took place from 21st December 2021 until 20th January 2022. The proposal is focused on tackling crime in both urban and rural communities, supporting victims of crime and improving standards in policing.
As well as an online consultation via social media, reaching over 6,000 people and coverage in the local media, the PCC contacted 123 parish and town councils and local community groups to seek the views of people on the proposal, to raise additional funding to supplement the grant provided by the government.
Response rates were the highest they’ve been since 2015, with over 600 Bedfordshire residents completing the survey, with 58% supporting the precept increase. Click here for a break down of the Police Precept for all Council Tax bands.
The Chief Constable and his team had told the PCC that their analysis of increases in crime across the county would require additional investment to ensure the force can focus on local priorities to take more criminals off the streets and put them before the courts.
The increase in precept means that the PCC can secure funding for:
- 72 additional police officers to strengthen the frontline
- Additional resources in the rural crime team
- Improving the way 101 and 999 calls are answered
- Continuing to prioritise drug-related serious organised crime
- Increasing our victim engagement officers to support victims of rape, sexual offences and domestic abuse
- Leadership of the local criminal justice board
- Improving links with local authorities to work closer in partnership on shared priorities
- A swifter commissioning process to distribute funding to local organisations to support victims of crime
- Investment in the Professional Standards Department, to improve vetting and ensure the highest standards of professional behaviour
- Investment in the use of low and zero emission vehicles.
At last night’s meeting (1st February 2022), the financial challenges that continue to confront policing in Bedfordshire were highlighted by the PCC.
Commenting after the meeting the PCC said: “As I explained to panel members, having discussed with Chief Constable Garry Forsyth the ongoing funding position of Bedfordshire Police and balancing this against the growing pressures on available resources, I have reached the conclusion that asking council taxpayers to contribute an average of 84 extra pence per month is needed to help continue to provide the best policing we can in Bedfordshire.
“I am acutely aware of the pressures on the outgoings of individuals and families across our county. The cost of living is rising for all of us, and all our public services are likewise facing the implications of this challenging climate as well.
“This precept increase, however, will allow the Chief Constable to put 72 more officers into our frontline, which I know is what residents want to see. But I want the Chief Constable to be able to do more than that.
“It will also allow the Chief Constable to invest in our rural crime team and increase the number of officers who work with our farmers and landowners that criminals all too often target.
“I will explore with neighbouring PCCs how they are redoubling their efforts to protect rural communities and businesses with additional funding from the OPCC to help people feel safe.
“Urgent investment is needed in improving how well Bedfordshire Police is able to respond to both 999 and 101 calls. There aren’t enough control room staff to meet the demand. The rise will allow the Chief to devote more resources into our control room, to harness new technology and be more responsive.
“I also want to refocus on victims of crime, the people who need care and support at what can be some of the most traumatic and difficult times in their lives.
“I am grateful to the Panel for recognising that policing, like adult social care and children’s services provided by our three local authorities, is under incredible pressure. With the panel’s support we can now invest in areas that will improve the response to the unprecedented demand in the county, as well as improving the support to victims of crime.
“The scale of drug dealing, drug use and serious violence that comes with this is another reason why I am recommending the rise in precept so that we can invest in making a dent in the activities of organised criminal gangs.
“I will be relentless in ensuring that the Chief Constable has the resources for delivering on these priority areas and will do everything within my power to help him and his team deliver, putting the people at the heart of policing in Bedfordshire.
The Commissioner highlighted that Bedfordshire Police continues to be funded as a rural police force while having policing demands similar to that in much larger urban metropolitan cities.
Commenting further, he said “At every opportunity, myself and my MP colleagues will press Ministers, including the Prime Minister as Andrew Selous did just last week at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), for the funding formula, that disadvantages Bedfordshire, to be revised.
“The very helpful Special Grants which have been given to Bedfordshire is a clear acknowledgement by the government that the current funding arrangement needs to be addressed. Both I, and the Chief Constable, continue to engage with the Home Office on the promised review of the funding formula, which we are informed will be resolved by the end of this Parliament”.
Councillor Ian Dalgarno, Chairman of the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel said: “Our role as a panel is to provide scrutiny and oversight of the PCC’s work. We have the power to veto the PCC’s recommendation to raise the precept and, whilst we are acutely aware of the pressures on homeowners and families at the moment, the panel was able to support the PCC following both him and the Chief Finance Officer answering our questions satisfactorily. I am also mindful that more people responded to the public consultation this year than last, and that more people indicated this year that they were willing to pay extra for policing than they did last year.
“I am particularly looking forward to seeing closer working between the PCC’s office and the three local authorities as well as our fire and rescue service, probation service and other members of the criminal justice board. The PCC recognises that the criminal justice board had been neglected and I am pleased that Festus is taking the helm and providing the leadership we need to see.”
If you would like to watch the recording of the Police and Crime Panel meeting, click here.
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You can find out more information about the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel here.