By Local Democracy Reporter Katie May Nelson
Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner has defended raising council tax by £15 a year on average in the wake of cuts to officer numbers.
Matthew Scott said he “deeply regrets” plans to cut Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) which are currently being worked out, but said they were necessary.
The force is trying to find savings to the tune of £14 million, £6.8 million of which is due to come from the Neighbourhood Policing Review.
A consultation with members of staff concluded last week and the Chief Constable, Tim Smith, will make a decision on the options in the coming weeks.
Mr Scott told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The promise I’ve always been given about this review is the model will be as good as, if not better, than the one we have at the moment.
“Of course, I wouldn’t choose to lose PCSOs in this way, but I think what we will have going forward will be positive for visible neighbourhood policing in the county.”
During a meeting of Kent and Medway police and crime panel at County Hall this morning (Wednesday, February 1), councillors reluctantly approved an increase to the force’s precept which features on residents’ council tax bills.
The precept will rise by £1.25 a month for the average band D household, which works out at £15 a year. This is the maximum allowed under precept-setting rules.
Last year, the increase was £10 a year.
Mr Scott said: “It’s not a decision that I took lightly. I do appreciate the challenges which many people are facing at the moment with increases in utilities and other costs, but the decision came down to, what do I do instead?
“We need the money to maintain policing services in this county.
“There’s a gap between how much income that we would generate from the government and other sources so, unfortunately, it was necessary.
“It’s £1.25 a month, but obviously I know every pound is precious at the moment.
“My commitment is I will make sure it is well spent and we get a good policing service as a result.”
The amount the force will be getting from the government – £700,000 – was criticised by councillors, who also considered the results of the annual policing survey.
Of the residents who responded to the survey and had also reported crime last year, just under half were dissatisfied with the service they received.
Tonbridge and Malling councillor Mark Hood (Green), said there was “reckless underfunding” of the police, adding: “With no support for police staff in the county, that’s left our communities facing a double whammy because not only are we cutting the number of PCSOs, but Kent County Council is proposing to cut a number of community wardens.”
Mr Scott said: “The funding formula that we’ve had now for 15 years is not fair for Kent.
“We’re on the borders of London and the continent, we deal with London’s crime, but we don’t get London’s funding for it.
“That’s not a sensible position to be in. Per head of the population, the Met gets the most funding; we get the sixth lowest and we’re right next to each other. That can’t be fair.”