Olly Martins, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Bedfordshire, is proposing an increase in the Council Tax precept of 15.8 per cent. As a result a referendum will be held on Thursday May 7th – the same day as the General Election.
Eric Pickles, the Communities and Local Government Secretary said:
“We would encourage every local authority, including police and crime commissioners, to take up the Government’s offer of extra funding to freeze council tax. However, the council tax referendum provisions now provide protection for local taxpayers against bodies wanting to hike up bills. Such a referendum can be held at minimal cost on the day of the general election.
“I hope the referendum will result in a healthy and robust public debate on how the police commissioner spends taxpayers’ money. Local residents should not be afraid of voting ‘no’ if they think that the tax rise is excessive and more could be done to cut out waste and inefficiency. We should trust the people.”
Generally crime in England and Wales is falling. The Crime Survey indicates that it fell another 11 per cent last year. Recorded claim is stable although that is felt to be due to better recording. This is during a time when spending has been cut. So the central message from Mr Martins – that the only way to cut crime is by increased spending – is contradicted by the facts.
Bedfordshire has been doing relatively badly in terms of crime. There was an eight per cent increase in recorded crime in the year to September.
Of the £121 million budget only £40 million goes on local policing. £4.7 million goes on roads policing. £8.5 million on “dealing with the public”. Over a million goes on “Corporate and Democratic Core”. There is £344,000 on debt interest.
The spending transparency section shows thousands a month spent on a PR firm called Better Times Ltd. There are huge sums paid to Reed Specialist Recruitment (for agency staff?). Also to the lawyers Clyde and Co and Luton Airport and the Chiltern Hotel.
How many work in Bedfordshire Police’s “Communication and Engagement Team” – which is recruiting for a “Channels and Content Officer”?
How many work in the Equality, Diversity and Human Rights section?
We know that there are three members of staff of Bedfordshire Police, funded by the Council Taxpayer but working full time for the trade unions.
The force has 1,078 police officers but 837 other staff. It also has 108 Police Community Support Officers. What about having more police officers, with the power to arrest people, rather than PCSOs?
How much time do the police spend on work that others could do? Are all the 837 other staff productively employed?
Mr Martins has shown ideological hostility to outsourcing or “privatising the police” as he would put it in alarmist terms. He has proved a failure in terms of joint working and joint procurement or in scaling down expensive surplus property. Therefore he is showing poor leadership compared to other PCCs who have embraced reform and shown a bold determination to achieve value for money.
Mr Martins says the Council Tax increase to raise £4.5 million is necessary to pay for a hundred more police officers. He says there is no other way of finding the money. He should look a bit harder.
A YouGov poll – which seems to have been paid for from police budget funds – indicates that 70 per cent are opposed to the Council Tax rise with 13 per cent in favour.