The Police and Crime Commissioner Lisa Townsend is urging Surrey residents to have their say on what they would be prepared to pay to support policing teams in their communities over the coming year.
The Commissioner has today launched her annual consultation on the level of council tax residents will pay for policing in the county.
Those who live and work in Surrey are being invited to complete a brief survey and share their views on whether they would support an increase on their council tax bills in 2023/24.
The Commissioner said it is an extremely difficult decision to make this year with household budgets being squeezed by the cost of living crisis.
But with inflation continuing to rise, the Commissioner says an increase of some kind will likely be necessary just for the Force to maintain its current position and keep pace with pay, fuel and energy costs.
The public are being invited to have their say on three options – whether they would agree to pay an extra £15 a year on an average council tax bill which would help Surrey Police maintain its current position and look to improve services, between £10 and £15 a year extra which would allow them to keep their heads above water or less than £10 which would likely mean a reduction in the service to communities.
The short online survey can be filled in here: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/counciltax2023/
One of the PCC’s key responsibilities is to set the overall budget for Surrey Police including determining the level of council tax raised for policing in the county, known as the precept, which funds the Force together with a grant from central government.
Recognising the increased pressure on police budgets, the Home Office announced this week that they have given PCCs across the country the flexibility to increase the policing element of a Band D council tax bill by £15 a year or an extra £1.25 a month – the equivalent of just over 5% across all bands in Surrey.
PCC Lisa Townsend said: “I am under no illusion that the cost of living crisis we are all facing is putting a huge squeeze on household budgets and asking the public for more money at this time is incredibly difficult.
“But the reality is that policing is being seriously impacted too. There is huge pressure on pay, energy and fuel costs and the stark rise in inflation means the Surrey Police budget is under considerable strain.
“The government announced last week it was giving PCCs the ability to add £15 a year on an average household council tax bill. That amount would allow Surrey Police to maintain its current position and look to improve services over the coming year. A lesser figure between £10 and £15 would enable the Force to keep pace with pay, energy and fuel costs and keep their heads above water.
“However, the Chief Constable has been clear with me that anything less than £10 would mean further savings will have to be made and that our service to the public will be impacted.
“Last year, the majority of those who took part in our poll voted for a council tax increase to support our policing teams and I really want to know whether you would be willing to continue that support again in what is a challenging time for us all.
“Surrey Police are making progress in those areas I know are important to people where they live. The number of burglaries being solved is on the increase, a huge focus has been put into making our communities safer for women and girls and Surrey Police received an outstanding rating from our inspectors on preventing crime.
“The Force is also on course to recruit the extra 98 police officers which is Surrey’s share this year of the government’s national uplift programme which I know residents are eager to see out on our streets.
“That will mean over 450 extra officers and operational policing staff will have been recruited into the Force since 2019. I have had the pleasure of meeting lots of these new recruits and many are already out in our communities making a real difference.
“I am really keen to ensure we don’t take a backward step in the service we provide or risk undoing the hard work that has gone into increasing police numbers in recent years.
“That is why I am asking the Surrey public for their continued support during what is a challenging time for us all.
“Surrey Police has a transformation programme underway looking at all areas of Force spending and they already need to find £21.5m in savings over the next four years which is going to be tough.
“But I really want to know what the people of Surrey think that increase should be so I would ask everyone to take a minute to fill out our brief survey and give me their views.”
The consultation will close at 12pm on Monday 16th January 2023. For more information, visit our council tax 2023/24 page.