Police commissioner ‘protecting frontline’ with increase in tax precept

Police and crime commissioner, Jason Ablewhite

Police and crime commissioner, Jason Ablewhite - Credit: Archant

Cambridgeshire’s police and crime commissioner has increased his share of the council tax bill by almost two per cent to ensure officers “keep a lid on criminality”.

Appearing at a police and crime panel meeting on February 1, Jason Ablewhite submitted his plans for a 1.97 per cent tax increase – pushing a Band D payment of £183.15 in 2016/2017 to £186.75 per annum, an increase of about seven pence per week.

He told the committee the increase is an “appropriate way forward” for his plans, which include protecting frontline policing, reducing reoffending rates and improving support for victims.

“Cambridgeshire Constabulary, although we know we live in a low crime area, has some specific challenges in making sure we keep a lid on that criminality,” he said.

“We tackle spikes in crime as they occur and for me you’re only going to be able to do that if you protect your frontline and you bolster that as well.

“There are a number of things we will be doing going forward over the next four years to make sure we balance our budgets appropriately, and that in the future we are creating resilience of the force in terms of income streams and revenue.”

As part of balancing the budget, Mr Ablewhite hopes to save £3.3 million in the medium term plan from more collaboration between the strategic alliance with Bedfordshire Police and Hertfordshire Constabulary.

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He said: “The entire benefits of that collaboration are yet to be realised so we are changing the structures around that, ensuring the greatest efficiency and that money starts to come out.”

Questions, however, were raised about whether this would have an effect on quality, but Mr Ablewhite said there was “no evidence” to suggest it would jeopardise the service.

“I can 110 per cent tell you that we have more calls to service than the other two,” he said.

“Has it [collaboration] created greater reliance? Yes, because by having three forces in terms of armed response, if there is a significant issue in our area there is more resilience to call on immediately under one command.”

Edward Leigh, vice chairman, also voiced concerns in anticipation of less money from the government’s capital grant.

It’s expected the county will receive £90,000 less than it did for 2016/17 – a 15 per cent fall to £506,000.

“You’ve said we are the cheapest force outside of London and in some ways that’s good – it’s efficient - but maybe it also implies that we cannot do some of the jobs that the public expect because there just isn’t enough money,” he said.

“I know you’re constrained by the 1.99 per cent [tax cap] but I do feel that we are getting squeezed between the government’s cap on the money from central government and the population increase which is accelerating.

“At some point the strain is going to show and I think you could potentially see an increase in crime. The force is doing a fantastic job, but I can hear it creaking.”

Mr Ablewhite said he recognised the pressures the force was under but that he has “every confidence” in balancing the budget.