Blog: Policing precept decision

Ever since I was first elected as Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, I have had to present my annual budget proposals to the Police and Crime Panel at the end of January. This year is no different in spite of the debilitating effects of the pandemic. We’re all too well aware of the tragic loss of life and the economic pain experienced by so many individuals and businesses. The scars and trauma of Covid 19 will probably take a long time to heal, but in the meantime, life has to carry on and so the budget decisions still must be made.

Just before Christmas, all Police and Crime Commissioners received details of their Home Office grants including the government money ringfenced for Operation Uplift. You’ll probably recall the Uplift programme is the government’s commitment to increase the national police officer strength by 20,000 over three years. In Suffolk’s case we recruited 54 in this current year, we will recruit a further 53 officers in the next financial year and a similar number thereafter. Our financial settlement was more or less the same as this financial year. The Policing Minister also gave PCCs the ability to raise the policing element of the precept by up to £15 per annum for a Band D property for the next financial year, which I am proposing to do.

As mentioned earlier, the economic backdrop for this decision-making process is especially challenging. I have to try and achieve the correct balance between continuing the extensive savings and efficiency programme in the Constabulary and making sure the force has enough resources to keep crime levels low and bring offenders to justice. A 30p per week per household increase raises £3.8 million; costs of running the force are predicted to increase by over £3 million and the economic downturn to reduce the Council Tax income. I must also set a balanced budget – a further pressure this year.

Before I make my decision, I’m seeking your views on my proposal via our online survey ( ). The question is would you be prepared to pay that extra 30p per week for policing. The 30p is based on a Band D property, for a Band B it would be an extra 22p a week. The survey closes at 9am on January 28th, so you have a few days to let me know your thoughts.

I must stress, this is a particularly difficult decision, but I would not be suggesting this increase if I really didn’t believe the extra funding is required – if the force is not able to invest in the future and keep crime levels down this could act as a real drag on the economic recovery. Please remember Suffolk remains the fourth lowest funded force in the country per head of the population.

If I do decide to increase the council tax by the maximum allowed, there will be an additional 25 officers and 26 staff recruited by April 2022. Coupled with the benefits of Operation Uplift, officer strength will then rise to more than 1330 – many more than the 1180 in post when I was elected as Suffolk’s PCC eight years ago. The additional staff recruitment will also be very beneficial in combatting criminality in Suffolk, as they will support warranted officers enabling them to maximise their time spent using their powers to keep us safe. This extra money will also improve communication between yourselves and the police and provide greater visibility in our towns and villages – something we would all like to see.

In conclusion, crime patterns continue to change and are becoming more complex. Sadly, recorded levels of domestic crime have risen by a quarter during the pandemic and the delays in the court cases are placing more strain on the victims and witnesses. All of this increases demand on the police service.

Times are very difficult but a decision has to be made. The vaccination programme does give us reason to be optimistic in the future and I will do everything possible to make sure Suffolk Constabulary plays a full part in helping our society return to some sense of normality and that is something we will all welcome with open arms. Please spend a few minutes to complete the survey – I would love to hear from you!

Published in the East Anglian Daily Times January 2021