Conservative-run Trafford Council had provided some recognition of the valuable voluntary contribution Special Constables make in reducing incidents of crime and anti-social behaviour. The Special Constables living and volunteering in Trafford can now get a 50% reduction on their Council tax bill.
This would be the right thing to do even if it didn't encourage more to come forward and serve in this way. But, of course, it does.
Cllr Jonathan Coupe, Executive Member for Safe Strong Communities says:
Special Constables working along side full time Police officers make a huge contribution in keeping our streets free of crime and anti-social activity, we presently have eight qualified Specials under the new scheme and a further seven will be joining them soon.
In Southampton there is a 100% Council Tax discount for Special Constables, introduced by the Conservative council. The decision has been backed by MPs from the main parties. Yet the Labour Party locally would scrap the discount. A third of the council seats are up for election in May and already the Conservatives have issued their manifesto promising to keep the rebate. They are also changing their housing allocations policy so that those on the waiting list are rewarded for good behaviour – including volunteering, and serving as Special Constables.
As an aside, he Southampton manifesto is an impressive document in many respects – keeping the 10% pensioners Council Tax discount, keeping weekly bin collections, introducing free parking for the first 10 minutes on city centre streets, introducing free City Centre WiFi, achieving savings for the Council Taxpayer of £690,000 a year through energy efficiency measures, backing new free schools starting, backing the Street Pastors, creating hundreds of new parkings spaces, keeping the libraries open, and maintaining funding for voluntary groups….
I suspect that Southampton and Trafford will be followed elsewhere with their encourgement for Special Constables. These are real police who wear uniform and – unlike PCSOs- have the power to arrest people. They are out on Saturday nights arresting yobs and they do this brave work as volunteers. Increasing their number is sure to be an issue the elected sheriffs or "Police and Crime Commissioners" will be challenged on.
It would be good if Boris could also give Specials a waiver from his Council Tax precept. To be allowed to do so might mean a change in the rules. I gather a Billing Authority (such as the London boroughs) can offer discounts but a pre-empting Authority (such as the Greater London Authority) can't. Even if a borough council wished to offer the discount on the GLA's behalf and then be reimbursed by the GLA this could be tricky. But if the procedures need to be changed by central Government to allow this flexibility then let's change them. Boris has doubled the number of Special Constables. They played a key role restoring the streets to order last August.