For the past two months I have been seeking the views of people across South Yorkshire on how much they are prepared to pay through council tax for policing (the precept) in the coming financial year.
I have done this through face to face meetings and with an on-line survey.
This is a legal requirement ahead of my setting the budget for the police and determining how much should be raised by the precept – which is itemised separately on your council tax bill.
The rest of the funding comes from central government grants.
Since 2010 government grant has fallen by almost 20% and it has been impossible to make up for this from council tax partly because the precept was capped and partly because the sums were so great.
To balance the books, the force has had to do two things: become more efficient – do more for less – but also reduce its numbers – fewer police staff and officers. Nationally we have lost 20,000 police officers and in South Yorkshire about 500.
Inevitably this has had an impact and some see the rise in violent crime as a consequence of these reductions.
The government has realised this and wants to see police forces receive more money – but not from them, from us. So it has eased the rules on how much can be raised locally.
For this coming year Police and Crime Commissioners have the power to put up the precept by up to £24 on a Band D property (or £16 on a Band A).
This is a significant increase and while very welcome for policing, I also have to bear in mind how much people can afford, hence the consultation.
I shall soon have the results but already I note what many are saying: they don’t mind paying more for policing but they want to see something for it.
This is why a return to neighbourhood policing matters – more police officers dedicated to particular places.
It is also why we need to see results.
It was important, for instance, that earlier this month the gang of five men who were responsible for a spate of burglaries across Sheffield, Barnsley and Rotherham last year were caught and successfully prosecuted. They have now been put away for a total of more than 35 years.
If I put up the council tax it has to be matched by more of these excellent results in the coming year.