There was a time when the Conservative led Government under the watchful eye of Eric Pickles promised us all that local taxation would be frozen and they criticised all the local authorities that sought to increase taxes and they penalised any Council that dared to put the local tax up above a 2% level by demanding that they hold a local referendum, the costs of which would need to be funded by the same local taxpayers. No doubt Eric is spinning in his front bench grave now that Ministers have carried out a U turn that has taken them into an entirely new paradigm. Eric’s colleagues have now worked out that they can avoid blame for their damaging policies if they persuade local politicians to increase local taxes to compensate for the costs being cut nationally. As an example of this local Police and Crime Commissioners are now being expected to call for residents to support extending the tax or precept used to fund policing, even though it is central government funding that has been biting deep into the budgets for the running of local police services. This was explained just over a week ago in Parliament when Liz Truss was asked to answer a written question on policing. She stated “The allocation of police funding between forces is led by the Home Office, and Police and Crime Commissioners are responsible for making decisions about how this funding is used to best address local needs. We have protected overall police spending in real terms. Since 2015 Police and Crime Commissioners will see their budgets maintained at cash levels so long as local council tax precept is maximised.“
The truth is that policing has been underfunded for the last 7 years and referring to the maintenance of cash levels is another way of saying that there are real term cuts to the budgets. However as the statement made clear, this level of cuts depends on the local taxation being set at its highest level. If these PCC’s were willing to adopt the old Conservative Party policy, they would in effect be cutting policing funds even more than simply allowing for inflation to be the basis for the cuts. Needless to say the Conservative PCCs like Katy Bourne here in Sussex are obediently asking their local ratepayers if they would mind the precept being raised, to compensate for the failings of their Conservative Government to properly fund the Police. No doubt Katy and her colleagues will all get a pat on the head from their party colleagues as they take the understandable criticism on the chin.