Precept for 2014-15
I am pleased that the panel has supported my recommendation to increase the police element of the council tax precept by 1.99%, thus affording some protection to Surrey Police against considerable cuts to its budget.
I appreciate that the late finalisation of the budget papers is not helpful for members of the panel, albeit we have met the statutory deadlines required of us. You will be aware this year that the Government’s announcement in respect of the council tax lock was extremely delayed and we were subjected to a last minute and unplanned top slicing of £1.1m to fund, amongst others, the IPCC and HMIC. Members will also know that I am dependent on the Force’s finance department to provide me with the necessary information to develop my budget and precept proposals. Recent savings of £296,000 (the equivalent of 6.3 Police Constables or 11 PCSOs) have been taken out of the finance function to protect front line services. This clearly has an implication on the Force’s ability to service my requests and any additional requests from the panel. I will however, ensure that in future years, every effort is made to share proposals and papers with the panel at an earlier stage.
In respect of the detail provided in the papers presented to the panel, I am clear that it is the role of the PCC to set the revenue and capital budget for Surrey Police and to scrutinise the detailed proposals put forward by the Chief Constable. The panel’s role relates to the setting of the council tax precept element. Whilst it is necessary to provide contextual budgetary information to allow members to make decisions in respect of the precept, I am keen to ensure that the lines of responsibility are not blurred. It would not, for example, be appropriate for panel members to be involved in the formation of budgetary proposals as this remains the role of the PCC. With this caveat in mind, I will ask my Chief Finance Officer to liaise with your office in advance of next year’s meeting to establish how best we can achieve a sensible balance.