Unrest at plans to up police precept

Clive Grunshaw, Lancashire's Police and Crime Commissioner
Clive Grunshaw, Lancashire's Police and Crime Commissioner
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The leader of Lancashire County Council has narrowly lost out on a bid to overturn the new Police and Crime Commissioner’s first budget proposal.

Clive Grunshaw has 
tabled plans to increase the police element of council tax for 2013/14 by two per cent – equivalent to £3 a year for an average band D property – so the force can take on an extra 50 officers.

Lancashire is 11th lowest precepting authority in the country, just missing out on the cutoff where a greater 
precept increase is allowed.

Mr Grunshaw, told a meeting of the Police and Crime Panel yesterday that he has chosen this way of raising funds instead of accepting a one per cent Government grant - or £1.3m - to freeze the precept.

He believes that deal would leave the force needing to make more savings and cut more officers in years to come.

Coun Geoff Driver, leader of Lancashire County Council, moved a motion to take the grant instead.

Addressing Mr Grunshaw, Coun Driver said: “So, as 
Police and Crime Commissioner, representing the people of Lancashire, you have said to the Government, ‘I don’t want that £1.3m?’

“Listening to what the treasurer has said, it seems there is deep regret that the Police Commissioner can’t put the council tax up even more. It sounds like if we’d have been the ninth lowest precepting authority, rather than the 11th, it could have gone up more.”

He added that he was “deeply concerned” that the board members had not been given the staffing budget for next year before bring asked to decide on the precept.

Coun Driver’s motion was supported by eight members of the board, but defeated by nine who voted against it.

Coun Peter Gibson, leader of Wyre Council, supported Coun Driver and spoke out on the cost of staffing the office of the Police Commissioner.

He said: “I think the people of Lancashire would prefer the £100,000 that’s been spent on assistants and deputies was spent on front line staff.”

A spending review in 2010 left Lancashire Constabulary having to make £43m of cuts, £31m of which have been found.

Mr Grunshaw said that with £6m savings the Constabulary still had to make and another £20m to be delivered by 2016/17, communities should not expect a huge increase in beat bobbies.

He said: “It’s about supporting the police budget so that we don’t lose more officers than we need to, and keeping the police force resilient.

“In a survey I’ve done of more than 1,400 residents, 82 per cent said they would pay up to three per cent more for more officers.”

Board members have until February 8 to respond the proposals.