The Police and Crime Commissioner David Munro has written to all MPs and Council Leaders in Surrey to seek their support in abolishing the current cap on the policing element of the council tax.
One of the PCC’s key roles is to agree the overall budget for Surrey Police including each year setting the level of council tax for policing in the county.
In the letter, the PCC has set out his view on the short and long term financial situation for Surrey Police asking ministers for their backing in principle in removing the current 2% precept cap.
The PCC said whilst the service is in a reasonably stable position compared to many other forces, that is contingent on finding further savings of around £12m over the next three years. He added that although half of these have been identified in principle – the rest have still to be sought meaning ‘hard choices’ will have to be made.
Nationally, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), alongside the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) has made a co-ordinated submission to the Home Office highlighting the potential for providing flexibility to commissioners and forces to manage local finances, including through the local precept. In Surrey, every 1% rise in the police precept equates to around £1m.
PCC David Munro said: “Like many forces up and down the country, Surrey Police are currently running at the limit of their capabilities at a time when demand on the service continues to grow.
“Add to that the need to find further cost savings over the next three years whilst also supporting the recent unfunded bonus of 1% to police officers and it is clear that the financial strain is increasing all the time.
“PCCs therefore need to look at every option available to us to provide the appropriate means to maintain our policing levels and keep our communities safe. That is why I have written to all of our local MPs and Council Leaders to seek their support in lifting the current precept cap of 2%.
“One of my key responsibilities as the elected Police and Crime Commissioner is to set the policing element of the council tax in Surrey and I do not take that responsibility lightly. As I have clearly stated in my letter, if I am given permission to go beyond the 2% cap I will certainly examine that seriously – but I can pledge now not to abuse that power.
“I believe it is vital that the public are getting value for money from their local force and of course we must look at opportunities to save money and make policing in Surrey as efficient as possible.
“Work is actively progressing on rationalising the estate, exploring further regional collaboration and seeking better use of upgraded technology. However any savings they bring will be in the medium to long term future so hard choices will have to be made in the next two or three years if we are to remain financially stable.
“When the Policing and Fire Minister visited us recently he accepted that Surrey has very little in terms of unallocated reserves apart from the nationally accepted level of 3% of gross turnover to deal with unexpected contingencies.
“Therefore, we must seek other ways to provide that crucial funding and lifting the precept cap would allow me to consider a small increase in order to get us over the short and medium term problems before the major savings that are forecast can be fully realised.”
To read the full letter the PCC has sent to MPs and Council Leaders – please click here