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  • Writer's pictureDan Heley

Avon & Somerset Police & Crime Committee veto council tax increase to fund new officers

Avon & Somerset Police's, Police and Crime Committee has rejected a proposal to implement an average of £15 a year increase to households police precept element of the council tax which was due to fund 70 more officers.

The decision made yesterday by the Committee could have a significant effect on Avon & Somerset Police's ability to provide an adequate level of policing across what many see as a challenging geographical area, with the need to be able to provide policing that fits both the rural and urban environment of the county and the broad range of challenges this brings with it.

Speaking to police and crime commissioner Sue Mountstevens on Facebook Live on February 2nd, Chief constable Marsh said: “A couple of years ago you [Ms Mountstevens] agreed to an increase and we employed an additional 100 police officers."

“It’s difficult to say what would have happened without Covid but in the last year we’ve seen a big reduction in burglaries, 17 per cent. Through the duration of Operation Remedy we’ve seen almost a doubling of solved crimes, many more offenders arrested. We’ve seen a big improvement in satisfaction rates - it’s over 86 per cent - we’ve seized a million pounds’ worth of drugs and £720,000 of cash, and conducted 78,000 hours of visibly patrolling knife crime and crime hot spots with that capability.”

Chief constable Andy Marsh further said during the event “if we don’t secure the increase we won’t be able to recruit 70 officers this year, and my concern is that the momentum of the improvements to deliver the outstanding police services to prevent crime, to protect people - we risk losing that momentum"

Police & Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens told councillors in December the 6.6 per cent increase was a “really big decision” but a rise of less than five per cent would result in a cut in staff, and the equivalent of 64 PCSOs.

Cllr Richard Westwood who is a member of the Police & Crime Committee said "the panel rejected the increase to the police precept and personally I felt that now was not a good time to increase constituents taxes whilst many people are struggling with the difficulties and financial pressures that the current economic climate is causing".

Police & Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens was approached for comment on the decision by the panel but declined with a member of her staff saying "we are awaiting a report from the Panel outlining their decision and the reason for it. We are due to receive this report next week"

Papers for the police and crime panel meeting say the average £15 increase would have allowed the force to implement measures that include:

  • Increase officers numbers above the national target

  • Introduce new PCSO supervisor roles, offering career progression

  • Create a offender management hub in every local authority area, “increasing the cohort of offenders receiving intensive, multi-agency, 360 degree management to the optimum level for maximum impact in crime and harm reduction”

  • Boost its investigative capacity to improve outcomes for victims of the most traumatic and life changing crimes of rape and sexual offences, child abuse and child exploitation

It is understood by Weston Independent News that a similar proposal could be bought to the panel in the near future by the office of the Police & Crime Commissioner which the panel would be unable to veto for a second time as long as it was not the exact same proposal.

The position of Police & Crime Commissioner is up for election on the 6th May 2021. PCC Sue Mounstevens was due to step down in May of last year but this was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is understood she will not be seeking re-election.



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