Essex’s police and crime commissioner has proposed a 3.5 per cent Council Tax precept increase for the force – enough to generate funds equivalent to pay for 57 police officers.

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Nick Alston said it was the “right and responsible thing to do” to propose the precept increase – which equates to a £5 a year rise for a Band D property – to help off-set a reduction in central government grant to the force of £8.4 million for 2014/15.

Mr Alston said: “I realise that families and ordinary people are struggling to make ends meet, and facing their own particular financial challenges.

“However, I firmly believe that increasing the portion of council tax to fund policing by just under £5 a year will reduce the risks to the effective delivery of policing services in Essex.”

Mr Alston added: “For the past few months, chief constable Graham Kavanagh and I, together with our teams, have been working hard to understand the scale and impact of the financial challenges faced by Essex Police.

“The funding of police forces comes from two primary sources: national government grant, and council tax – of which a portion goes directly to the police.

“When compared with the other 35 shire forces in England and Wales, for 2013/14 the amount of council tax paid to fund policing services in our county was the fourth lowest in the country. If the amount of council tax paid by all of us who live in Essex was equivalent to the national average, it would fund an additional 300 to 500 police constables depending on the calculation used.”

He went on to describe Essex Police as an “already lean and efficient force” and point to recent reports, including a ‘Value for Money’ inspection by HMIC, which found that Essex Police had the second lowest net expenditure and the lowest non staff expenditure per head of the population.

“National comparisons also show that Essex Police has a below average number of police officers and PCSOs given the size and population of our county, and the seventh lowest number of police staff.

“In terms of efficiency, compared with other forces an above average proportion of police officer time was spent on the operational front line,” he said.

“Here, in short, is the predicament for our county. We have a highly professional, lean and efficient police force, and we are faced with the need for further savings. At the same time I hear week by week that everyone is concerned there are too few police on the front line.

“Fundamentally, I believe that with any large organisation, there are always efficiencies to be found. Under scrutiny from me Essex Police is delivering those efficiencies. However, I also believe that it is my job as police and crime commissioner to be responsible, and to do the right thing for the people of Essex to ensure that our county continues to be a safe and enjoyable place in which to live and work.”

He added: “I believe that the majority of people in Essex will be prepared to pay a little more in council tax, around 10p a week, to help ensure that we have a strong police force. But of course I recognise that for some finding even this modest amount will be difficult.

“I would also stress that my guidance to the chief constable is that, wherever possible and appropriate, he should strive to protect police officer numbers. Neither the chief constable nor I expect the savings to be delivered solely by cutting the number of police officers who work tirelessly and professionally to keep us all safe, day and night.”

The proposal will be presented to the Police and Crime Panel and debated in public at their meeting on January 29 at County Hall, Chelmsford.

• Detailed documents submitted to the Police and Crime Panel for can be read at the PCC website, essex.pcc.police.uk/2014/01/paying-for-our-policing-2/

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