Plans to increase the Council tax precept have been supported by South Wales Police and Crime Panel. It says its plans to keep protecting vulnerable people, tackle crime and maintain neighbourhood policing.
The move to increase the policing precept amounts to an extra £24 per year for someone living in a band D property – a rise of 46p a week – but most people across South Wales will pay less than this.
It follows a Home Office decision to provide a real terms cut in Police Grant whilst announcing an expectation that Commissioners could fund resources through a more “flexible” local council tax precept – i.e. a larger increase.
Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales, Alun Michael, said:
“An increase of £24 – effectively the expectation set by the Home Office – does not mean that our financial challenges will disappear overnight and will still require us to make savings of £7.2m to achieve a balanced budget.
“But it does allow South Wales Police to maintain a sharp focus on the priorities we have set for making our communities safer.
“By failing to provide an adequate police grant settlement, the UK Government has shifted the burden of police funding on to council tax payers, passing the responsibility to local Police and Crime Commissioners to find the inevitable increases required to provide effective policing.
“And so, the difficult decision to propose this increase has been taken in the knowledge that our communities rightly expect to receive an effective policing service that keeps them safe – neither the Chief Constable nor I are prepared to withdraw from local communities or to stop tackling low-level offending, or to miss opportunities for preventing crime.”
The panel was given a detailed overview of the significant financial pressures and challenges faced by South Wales Police:
- Around a third of the Police Grant – £45m – cut since 2011/12;
- £51m of savings so far – £58m expected by 2020;
- No funding to meet the additional cost of policing the capital city for Wales;
- Blackhole in pensions funding – only partly funded this year and uncertainty going forward;
- An unfunded Apprenticeship Levy – £1m each year;
- Increased demand on police services, although around 90% of that demand has little to do directly with crime – the police are often the agency of first resort for those in crisis;
- Cumulative loss of £92m (in the last two decades) redistributed to other forces as a result of unfair application of the police funding formula.
During the period of austerity, the number of South Wales Police officers was cut from 3,400 to just under 2,800 and only through local investment in recent years has it increased to its current level of just under 2,900.
The increase to the policing precept for 2019/20, recommended by the Police and Crime Commissioner, will be implemented following a meeting of the South Wales Police and Crime Panel in Merthyr earlier today, together with the South Wales Police & Crime Plan 2019-23.
For many years, Council Tax payers in South Wales paid less for policing than households in the rest of Wales. They will still pay significantly less for policing than households in North Wales and slightly more than people living in Dyfed Powys and Gwent. South Wales includes the two largest cities in Wales and has a population of 1.3m. It is the busiest police force in Wales, responding to over half a million non-emergency and almost 200,000 emergency calls every year.
After the meeting Mr Michael said: “Even with the proposed increase in the police precept, I am confident that South Wales Police provides the best possible value for money in terms of cost to council tax payers.
“We have made tough decisions year after year in relation to how we deliver our services. Effective forward planning, combined with the innovative way in which we work with partners to keep South Wales safe, is why we have been able to continue to meet our challenges against a backdrop of deep financial cuts. Despite the cuts, we have maintained neighbourhood policing, enhanced our commitment to working with partners (especially in local government) to prevent crime, continued to invest in technology to deliver better services in our communities and responded to the growing operational demands.
“Much of our success has been recognised by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate. The level of victim satisfaction is one of the best in the country and the engagement and visibility of our officers in communities has been ranked as the best in the UK.
“I would like to thank the Police and Crime Panel for recognising the challenges our officers and staff face on a daily basis, and the role they play in protecting vulnerable people, including those experiencing mental health issues, and keeping our communities safe.”