Cost of tackling crime: West Yorkshire ratepayers face 7.64 per cent hike on police precept bills from April

Council tax bill payers in West Yorkshire are facing a hike of more than seven per cent to help cover the costs of policing.

By David Spereall
Friday, 5th February 2021, 2:38 pm

A proposal by the region's elected Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) to raise the police precept, which is tagged onto council tax bills, was agreed after a knife-edge vote on Friday morning.

The 7.64 per cent rise translates to an extra £10 a year for people living in Band A properties, and an extra £11.66 for Band B homes. It will kick in from April this year.

Labour PCC Mark Burns-Williamson said the hike was needed to help fund the recruitment of more police officers and community support officers (PCSOs). He said the extra money would also be invested in tackling digital crime, which has flourished since the start of the Covid pandemic.

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The increase will help pay for more bobbies on the beat.

But the increase comes on top of proposed tax rises of nearly five per cent which are due to be imposed by four of the West Yorkshire councils this spring. In Wakefield, the rise will amount to just short of four per cent.

Seven members of the region's Police and Crime Panel, which scrutinises the PCC, voted to veto the tax rise following criticism it would not offer good value for money.

Speaking to the panel on Friday, Mr Burns-Williamson said: "The public want to see more problem-solving, more visibility and more locally based PCSOs who know their local areas.

"What I'm putting forward in these proposals maintains that.

West Yorkshire PCC Mark Burns-Williamson.

"This isn't an easy decision, or one I've taken lightly, given the coronavirus situation and the impact it's had on communities and individuals.

"But I've got to weigh everything in the balance and take these decisions.

"I do understand the impact this will have, but it will remain the third lowest police precept across England and Wales.

"Those who are the most vulnerable and in disadvantaged situations need the support and protection of the police."

The plans were criticised by some panellists, who cited the severe financial impact Covid has had on communities.

Mr Burns-Williamson criticised the government for shifting tax-raising powers onto local PCCs and said the impact of public spending cuts on the police force since 2010 had not been fully reversed.

The PCC also pointed to feedback from nearly 1,900 local people had indicated 80 per cent support for the proposals, but that survey was scorned by some panellists for not offering respondents the chance to support a smaller rise.

Independent member Roger Grasby told the meeting: "The coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately impacted on the low-paid and BAME communities, both of whom represent a significant number of residents within West Yorkshire.

"The impact of imposing this is something I think is a moral issue as much as an economic issue."

Quoting figures suggesting the police were achieving "poorer outcomes" over the last five years, he added: "If I was in my business and we'd invested more and more while getting poorer and poorer performance, we'd all be sacked.

"There's no correlation, as I've tried to point out, between police officer numbers and the things that matter to the public."

But Calderdale councillor Susan Press, suggested the increase was "fair".

"All authorities in West Yorkshire are in a dire financial situation," she said.

"We're all planning to put council tax up by very significant amounts because we have no choice.

"But when you compare the increases we're going to have to make, what we're talking about here is actually an extremely small amount of money.

"Most properties in our area are Band A. (An extra) 20p a week isn't a massive burden. I'll be supporting this because I think it's necessary and people need to feel safer than ever before."

The panel's votes on the increase were split along political lines.

All eight Labour councillors voted in favour of it, while the seven panellists against were all either Conservatives, Liberal Democrats or independent members.

Local Democracy Reporting Service