Proposals by the Police and Crime Commissioner to increase the council tax precept for policing have been supported by the Police and Crime Panel.
The decision will see an increased precept of £24 per year for a Band D property, the maximum permitted by the government. Most properties in South Yorkshire are in lower bands where the increases will be around £16 for Band A and £18 for B properties.
The Commissioner’s decision follows consultations with the Police and Crime Panel, council leaders, local councillors and the public across each of the districts of Barnsley, Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster.
The four District Council Leaders also supported the Commissioner’s proposal.
Whilst supportive of the budget proposals members of the Police and Crime Panel have asked Dr Billings to have further discussions with the Force to increase the number of neighbourhood police officers from the proposed 40 to a total of 90 officers.
Dr Billings explained to the Police and Crime Panel that this was putting the Force in a very difficult situation as this would need extra funding of around £4.5 million per year to sustain.
“This is an additional amount that we do not have. To increase the neighbourhood teams by a further 50 officers would mean that resources would have to be taken from elsewhere in the Force. This would seriously weaken South Yorkshire Police.
“Whilst I understand the importance of visible policing to communities there is also a lot of policing that isn’t visible but is still taking place. For example, crime is increasingly on-line and investigating these crimes needs people who are not on the street but in front of computers. To increase the neighbourhood teams would see a cut in these areas or in the support staff roles.”
Public consultation on the precept has taken place over the past few months both on line and at public meetings, events and engagement days. Over 1,000 residents were asked if they would be willing to pay more council tax for policing and over 60% said they would. However, it was clear that people expected to see a more visible police presence within local communities to reduce the perceived increase in crime and ASB issues.
The police budget is made up of a Police Grant plus money raised from the council tax precept and other government grants. The Government set a limit on the amount of money police and crime commissioners can raise from the precept. The South Yorkshire precept for this year is set at the maximum level.
Dr Billings added: “I completely understand the added financial burden that a precept rise puts on all residents of South Yorkshire, however, I have to balance this against the need to keep people safe. Over the last few years the number of police officers reduced dramatically. 500 have been lost since 2010. I now believe that we can put more officers back into our neighbourhood policing teams and increase the number of officers across the board to meet the demands the Force is facing.
“The numbers outlined in the budget paper – 40 extra officers for neighbourhood policing plus 15 other extra officers – do exactly that and have been carefully thought through in discussions with the Chief Constable to provide a considerable uplift in officer numbers. Ongoing reform of the Force is taking place, which will significantly amend the workforce composition going forward, so the public can be assured that this is constantly under review.
“However, I have heard the Panel’s concerns and I will hold further discussions with the Chief Constable around this matter.”