By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
Kent residents will have to pay an extra 4.58% in tax towards policing from April.
The rise was agreed earlier today (February 2) by the Kent and Medway Police and Crime Panel at Kent County Council’s (KCC) headquarters in County Hall, Maidstone.
This means an additional £10-a-year will be paid by a Band D council tax payer.
Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott said the rise was needed to cope with growing “financial challenges” faced by the county’s police force.
At today’s public meeting, he said: “I think this is something that is absolutely needed and has delivered value for money in the past.”
Kent councillors have called for a long-term solution to the way the force is funded.
The annual fee paid for police for an average Band D home will rise from £218 to £228, marking a 4.58% increase.
Last year, Kent households paid an extra 7.4% on the police portion of council tax bills, which excludes other bills such as the fire service, KCC or Medway.
Mr Scott said the additional funding is required to secure a further increase in police officer numbers, invest more in police stations, a new digital system that will allow dash cam uploads and to cover growing cost pressures caused by Covid.
Under Mr Scott’s watch, he said the number of Kent Police officers has risen by 788 since he was first elected in 2016. It came during the austerity years and police cuts in the early 2010s. The latest police tax uplift will help to secure 195 new recruits by March 2023. This would take the total number of Kent police officers to 4,165, the highest number ever.
Mr Scott hopes this will help to reduce offence levels, particularly relating to burglary and tackling County Lines drug gangs.
He said: “The financial challenges which policing has experienced has never really gone away over the last few years.”
He added: “I would not do this unless I thought it was absolutely necessary.”
Cuts will need to be made in other areas between April 2022 and April 2023 to balance the budget as Kent Police faces a black hole of around £6.8 million. This amounts to around 2% of its total spending budget of about £370 million.
Mr Scott said job losses would only be considered as a “last resort”.
Major concerns were raised by several district, borough and county councillors to the way the force is funded in future years, with more tax rises forecast.
Cllr Mike Hill (Con), chairman of the Kent Police and Crime Panel, said: “This is almost unsustainable in the long-term. We have more police in Kent than ever before, but at some point we must be able to stop expanding police officers to meet budget pressures.”