Commissioner vows police teams will have the “tools to take the fight to criminals in our communities” after council tax increase goes ahead

THE Police and Crime Commissioner, Lisa Townsend, said Surrey Police teams will be given the tools to tackle those crimes important to our communities over the coming year after it was confirmed her proposed council tax rise will go ahead earlier today.

The Commissioner’s suggested 4.2% increase for the policing element of the council tax, known as the precept, was discussed this morning at a meeting of the county’s Police and Crime Panel at Woodhatch Place in Reigate.

The 14 Panel members present voted on the Commissioner’s proposal with seven votes for and seven votes against. The Chair cast a deciding vote against. However, there were insufficient votes to veto the proposal and the Panel accepted the Commissioner’s precept will come into effect.

Lisa said it means the new Chief Constable Tim De Meyer’s plan for policing in Surrey will be fully supported, allowing officers to focus on what they do best – fighting crime and protecting people.

Council tax vote

The Chief Constable has pledged to maintain a visible presence that tackles pockets of lawlessness in the county, relentlessly pursue the most prolific offenders in our communities and crack down on anti-social behaviour (ASB) hot-spots.

In his blueprint – which he outlined to residents during a recent series of community events across Surrey – the Chief Constable said his officers will drive out drug dealers and target shoplifting gangs as part of major crime fighting operations carried out by the Force.

He also wants to substantially increase the number of crimes detected and offenders put before the courts with 2,000 more charges made by March 2026. In addition, he has vowed to ensure that calls for help from the public are answered more quickly.

The overall budget plans for Surrey Police – including the level of council tax raised for policing in the county, which funds the Force together with a grant from central government – were outlined to the Panel today.

Policing plan

As part of the Panel’s response to the Commissioner’s proposal, members expressed disappointment at the government settlement and the “unfair funding formula which places a disproportionate burden on Surrey residents to fund the Force”.

The Commissioner wrote to the Policing Minister on this issue in December and has vowed to continue to lobby government for fairer funding in Surrey.

The policing element of an average Band D Council Tax bill will now be set at £323.57, an increase of £13 a year or £1.08 a month. It equates to around a 4.2% increase across all council tax bands.

For every pound of the precept level set, Surrey Police is funded by an extra half a million pounds and the Commissioner thanked the county’s residents for the huge difference their council tax contributions make to hard-working officers and staff.

Residents respond

During December and January, the Commissioner’s office carried out a public consultation. More than 3,300 respondents answered the survey with their views.

Residents were asked whether they would be prepared to pay the suggested £13 extra a year on their council tax bill, a figure between £10 and £13, or a figure lower than £10.

41% of respondents said they would support the £13 increase, 11% voted for £12, and 2% said they would prepared to pay £11. A further 7% voted for a £10 a year, while the remaining 39% opted for a figure below £10.

Those who responded to the survey were also asked their views on what issues and crimes they would like to see Surrey Police prioritise during 2024/5. They pinpointed burglary, anti-social behaviour and drug crime as the three areas of policing they would most like to see focused on over the coming year.

“What policing does best”

The Commissioner said that even with the precept increase this year, Surrey Police will still need to find around £18m of savings over the next four years and that she would work with the Force to provide the best value for money for residents.

Commissioner Lisa Townsend said: “The Chief Constable’s plan sets out a clear vision of what he wants the Force to do to provide that service our residents rightly expect. It concentrates on what policing does best – fighting crime in our local communities, getting tough on offenders and protecting people.

“We spoke to hundreds of residents across the county at our recent community events and they told us loud and clear what they want to see.

“They want their police to be there when they need them, to answer their calls for help as quickly as possible and to tackle those crimes which blight their everyday lives in our communities.

Police and Crime Commissioner Lisa Townsend’s proposed increase to the policing element of Surrey taxpayer’s council tax has been accepted

“This is why I believe that supporting our policing teams has never been more important than it is today and I need to ensure the Chief Constable has the right tools to take the fight to the criminals.

“So I am delighted that my precept proposal will go ahead  – the contributions the Surrey public make through their council tax will make a vital difference to our hard working officers and staff.

“I am under no illusion that the cost of living crisis continues to put a huge strain on everyone’s resources and asking the public for more money has been incredibly difficult.

“But I have to balance that with providing an effective police service that puts tackling those issues, which I know are so important to our communities, at the heart of it what does.

“Invaluable” feedback

“I would like to thank everyone who took the time to fill in our survey and give us their views on policing in Surrey. More 3,300 people took part and not only gave me their opinions on the budget but also on what areas they want to see our teams focus on, which is invaluable for shaping the policing plans going forward.

“We also received more than 1,600 comments on a range of topics, which will help inform the conversations my office has with the Force on what is important to our residents.

“Surrey Police has worked extremely hard to not only meet but surpass the government’s target for extra officers, meaning the Force has the most officers in its history which is fantastic news.

“Today’s decision will mean they can receive the right support to deliver the Chief Constable’s plan and make our communities even safer for our residents.”

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