Government-imposed cap forces Essex’s crime tsar to think again on 3.5 per cent Council Tax hike

PUBLISHED: 11:51 06 February 2014 | UPDATED: 12:03 06 February 2014

Essex's police and crime commissioner Nick Alston.

Essex's police and crime commissioner Nick Alston.

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A Government-imposed cap on Council Tax rises has forced Essex’s police and crime commissioner to think again on the force’s proposed 3.5 per cent hike.

Yesterday (Wednesday), the Government announced that any increase in Council Tax of 2 per cent or more would require a referendum, including the portion used to fund policing, known as the policing precept.

Nick Alston said he was “disappointed” by the decision to impose the cap – a move he advised against.

Essex Police will now face financial challenges during the coming year, which will “become even more serious in the following two years”, according to Essex’s crime tsar.

“My initial view is that it would not be a good use of public money to trigger a referendum in Essex,” Mr Alston said.

“The commonly accepted estimate is that a referendum asking the people of our county whether they are prepared to vote for an increase of more than 2 per cent, or about 6 pence a week, to fund policing services would cost around £2 million.”

Mr Alston said he recognised the Government might decide to impose a cap and so discussed the possibility with the Police and Crime Panel on January 29.

At the meeting it was agreed, by 12 votes to three, to raise the policing precept by 3.5 per cent.

He added: “I firmly believe the majority of people living in counties which, for historic reasons, contribute the least through Council Tax for their policing would be prepared to pay a little more to protect front line policing.

“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.”

Despite the setback, Mr Alston said he and Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh were “determined to deliver the best possible policing” during the coming year, while “protecting the front line and local policing wherever possible”.

He added: “We are confident of building a safer Essex. But we are also determined to invest in the long term development of Essex Police through encouraging the professional development of all officers and staff, adopting innovation and new technology, and building a strategic approach to the police property estate.”

Mr Alston will now present a revised policing precept proposal to the Police and Crime Panel. Panel meetings are usually held in County Hall, Chelmsford, and members of the public are welcome to attend and ask questions.

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