A public consultation on Cheshire’s police precept – launched to help gauge the views of county communities ahead of a full budget consultation later this month and throughout January – has given a strong indication that the public of Cheshire is potentially supportive of an increase in the precept to help protect frontline policing.
That’s the view of the Police & Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, David Keane, who is leading the consultation on the police precept – a key component of homeowners’ annual council tax bills – to help gauge the public and business appetite in Cheshire for dealing with expected funding pressures as a result of a likely “woeful” flat cash settlement from Government.
The Commissioner – who challenged the Chancellor Philip Hammond earlier this year on police funding – is calling on communities to answer a key question on how future funding required to protect frontline officers and deliver on their policing priorities should be paid for.
David said “Over 72% of respondents have said they would be supportive of paying a higher precept of around 18p per week should it be necessary to protect front-line policing.
“When I was given the honour of being elected, I said I would listen to the communities we serve. I would listen to their concerns. I would listen to their priorities. I would ask them the important questions around the future of the force. And I would act on it.
“The debate around police funding is so critically important to the future of the force, so it’s important that we have an open and honest debate about the options. Put simply, without a fair funding settlement, we either cut back on officers – the front line neighbourhood presence which people tell me is important to them – or we look at ways, through the precept, to help maintain services and officer numbers.”
The Commissioner consulted on a precept rise of “up to five per cent” – equivalent to 18p per week for the average home – as part of the Cheshire-wide discussion. This would ensure that the Constabulary could maintain officer numbers at their current level. Doing nothing could see up to 80 officer posts being cut.
The precept debate has prompted feedback from some quarters of the community about the cost of the Police & Crime Commissioner’s office. It’s something David has confirmed he’d be happy to address.
“When I came in as Commissioner, one of the first things I addressed were the costs of this office. They were too high. So, I streamlined my team, I got rid of the company cars and I moved our office to a new lower cost location. Our costs are now the second lowest of any Police and Crime Commissioner office in the country.
“Up and down the country PCCs act as the voice of the people and hold the police to account,” David added. “We are responsible for the totality of policing. At a total cost of less than 0.4% of the overall policing budget in Cheshire, I feel that this is a very small price to pay for the impact we have on delivering a high quality police force."
Over the past seven years, Cheshire Constabulary has made huge savings of more than £60 million. Analysis by the Police & Crime Commissioners Treasurers’ Society shows Cheshire Police has suffered a cash cut of 23% since 2010 and a real terms cut of 37%. The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner has done its bit too, reducing its spend by 37% (around £400,000) – a third of the previous Commissioners budget.
A flat cash settlement from the Government could mean that, over the next three years, Cheshire Police will need to find further savings of more than £13 million - around £4million in 2018/19, £5million in 2019/20 and a further £4million in 2020/21.
The full consultation on the police budget will take place between Thursday, 21st December 2017 and Wednesday, 24th January 2018 following the Government announcing budget settlement for Cheshire just before Christmas.