Would you be prepared to pay a little extra over the coming year to support a renewed police focus on fighting crime and protecting people where you live?
That is the question Police and Crime Commissioner Lisa Townsend is asking Surrey residents as she launches her annual survey on the level of council tax they will pay for policing in the county.
The Commissioner says she wants to support the new Chief Constable Tim De Meyer’s Plan for the Force in which he vows to tackle pockets of lawlessness in the county, relentlessly pursue the most prolific offenders in our communities and crackdown on anti-social behaviour (ASB).
Those who live in Surrey are being invited to answer just four questions on whether they would support an increase on their council tax bills in 2024/25 to help put that plan into action.
All of the options in the survey require Surrey Police to continue to make savings over the next four years.
It comes after the Commissioner joined the Chief Constable and Borough Commanders in a series of ‘Policing your Community’ events held across Surrey in the autumn and that will continue online this January.
At those meetings, the Chief Constable has been setting out his blueprint on what he wants Surrey Police to focus on in the next two years, which includes:
- Maintaining a visible presence in Surrey communities which tackles pockets of lawlessness – driving out drug dealers, targeting shoplifting gangs and cracking down on ASB hot-spots
- Substantially increasing the number of offenders charged and crimes detected; with 2,000 more charges made by March 2026
- Relentlessly pursuing thugs, thieves and abusers by identifying the most dangerous and prolific offenders and taking them off our streets
- Continuing to investigate all reasonable lines of enquiry, including attending all domestic burglaries
- Carrying out major crime fighting operations that go over and above everyday policing
- Answering calls from the public quickly and ensuring the response from police is swift and effective
- Seizing more criminal assets and putting that cash back into our communities.
One of the PCC’s key responsibilities is to set the overall budget for Surrey Police. That includes 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.
The Commissioner said it is an extremely hard decision to ask the public for more money with the cost-of-living crisis continuing to bite.
But with inflation continuing to rise, she warned an increase was needed for the Force to keep pace with inflationary rises in pay, fuel and energy costs.
Recognising the increased pressure on police budgets, the Government announced on 05 December that they have given PCCs across the country the flexibility to increase the policing element of a Band D council tax bill by £13 a year or an extra £1.08 a month – the equivalent of just over 4% across all bands in Surrey.
The public are being invited to have their say on the amount the Commissioner sets in her proposal in February, with options for a below inflation increase that is below £10, or between £10 and £13.
Whilst the maximum increase of £13 would provide the Chief Constable with most of the resources he needs to achieve his plans for the Force, Surrey Police would still need to find at least £17m of savings over the next four years.
A middle option would allow the Force to keep its head above water with minimum reductions to staffing levels – while an increase of less than £10 would mean that further savings will have to be made. This could result in a reduction in some of the services which the public value the most, such as taking calls, investigating crimes and detaining suspects.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey Lisa Townsend said: “At the recent community events, our residents have 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.
“The Chief Constable’s plan sets out a clear vision of what he wants the Force to do to provide that service the public rightly expect. It concentrates on what policing does best – fighting crime in our local communities, getting tough on offenders and protecting people.
“It is a bold plan but one residents have told me they want to see. In order for it to be a success, I need to support the Chief Constable by making sure I give him the right resources to realise his ambitions in a difficult financial climate.
“But of course I must balance that with the burden on the Surrey public and I am under no illusions that the cost of living crisis is continuing to put a huge strain on household budgets.
“That is why I want to know what Surrey residents think and whether they would be willing to pay a little extra to support our policing teams again this year.”
The Commissioner said Surrey Police continue to face a number of significant challenges including huge pressure on pay, energy and fuel costs and increasing demand for policing services whilst the Force must find in the region of £20m in savings over the next four years.
She added: “Surrey Police have worked extremely hard to not only meet but surpass the government’s target for extra officers under its Uplift programme to recruit 20,000 nationwide.
“It means Surrey Police have the most officers in its history which is fantastic news. But I want to ensure we don’t undo all of that hard work in the coming years which is why I must think very carefully about making sound, long term financial plans.
“That includes making every efficiency we possibly can and the Force is undergoing a transformation programme designed to ensure we provide the best value for money for the public that we can.
“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.
“So I would ask everyone to take a minute to fill out our brief survey and give me their views.”
The council tax survey will close at 12pm on 30 January 2024.
Visit our Council tax page for more information.