Police tax increase approved
By Trevor Carbin
Wiltshire and Swindon's Police and Crime Panel has approved a proposal by the county's Commissioner Angus Macpherson to increase the precept by 1.99%. This means council tax payers will see an increase in their bills of around £3 per year.
Despite the increase the amount of funding available to run the police force will reduce due to government cuts. The Chief Constable said at the meeting that he would have preferred a 10% increase in order to maintain policing levels, but this could not be done due to government capping, which cuts in at 2%.
The increase also means the police won't get the so-called freeze grant, offered by the government to precepting authorities which don't increase their tax levels.
The panel has the power to veto the Commissioner's tax proposal, though in the event only one member of the panel voted against the rise.
The Band D precept is increased by 1.99% to £160.92 a year. This is a £3.15 increase from the 2013-14 Band D council tax precept of £157.77.
Chairman of the Wiltshire and Swindon Police and Crime Panel, Cllr Richard Britton said: "We had a lengthy discussion during which some concern was expressed that the Commissioner's proposed increase was out of line with his two local authority partners who were working hard to maintain their council tax freeze. However, the panel recognises the great value the public place on their police service and concluded that we should do what we can to help protect services for the future."
The panel also considered crime statistics, following concerns from elsewhere in the country that these were being distorted.
Chief Constable Patrick Geenty said that this was not a problem in Wiltshire because the force had moved away from the target-driven culture which required an obsession with statistics and could lead to unforseen consequences. "It's not about numbers, but about quality of service," he said. He also claimed that, "uninformed and unfounded criticism is doing damage to policing".