Suffolk Council Tax set to rise to pay for Police

Suffolk Police Authority
Chair Cllr Joanna Spicer
This year the Government have effectively forced Council Tax to be frozen for a second year by offering a "one off payment" to local authorities who freeze their Council Tax of 2.5%. So clearly it would make no sense whatsoever to put up Council Tax unless it was to be a somewhat higher rise. Almost every Council in the country - including Suffolk County Council - has taken this money. The notable exception to date is the Green run Brighton and Hove Council who have proposed a 3.5% increase in Council Tax and will forgo the 2.5% "one off payment". As a consequence they have been attacked especially by Conservatives and the press. In addition 7 labour and 3 Tory Councils have proposed various rises.

Today Eric Pickes, Conservative Communities Secretary showed just how unimpressed he was by this saying:
Communities Secretary
Eric Pickles MP
"A vote against the council tax freeze is a vote for punishing tax rises. It's essential in February and March, as town hall budgets are set, that councils sign up to the council tax freeze. Local taxpayers will remember that decision next time they cast their vote at the ballot box. Councillors have a moral duty to sign up to keep down the cost of living."
Here in Suffolk the Police Authority who set a chunk of the Council Tax we pay are going even further than Brighton and Hove Greens and proposing a 3.75% rise in Council Tax. This would mean that this year's £160.74 precept for a band D household would increase by £6.03.

The proposed rise to Council Tax will raise £1.55m but the Government grant the Authority would get if it did not increase the Council Tax is £1.25m so the extra is actually only some £300 000.

But Chief Constable Simon Ash defended the plan:
Simon Ash, Suffolk Chief
It's essentially a choice between a short-term option [freezing council tax] that stores up some problems, which means more cuts the following year, and an option [increasing council tax] which makes the long-term prospects easier to handle. 
The police authority commissioned a survey that showed that 73% of people were prepared to pay a 3% increase in their council tax. 
At the moment we've got 1,200 officers in the force and I think dropping much below that starts to become more difficult to police the county.
All this leaves Tory County Councillor and Police Authority Chair Joanna Spicer in a messy position. She is quoted today as saying:
Our role as an authority is to secure an efficient and effective policing service for Suffolk, which already has one of the lowest cost forces in the country 
We have agreed a preference to increase the council tax, but we do want to hear people's views on that over the next two or three weeks.
David Cameron described the plans by Brighton and Hove Council as "a huge mistake" and Joanna Spicer is clearly somewhat out on a limb within the Tory party on this issue.

But she may be right as I think that Chief Constable Ash has a point that accepting the one off payment is storing up problems for the future. Either way the Government are certainly putting their own local councillors in a very awkward position. Despite this rise it looks likely that 100 of the 1200 police officer posts in the County will be cut as well as 200 civilian posts out of 1000. And this is a County as Spicer rightly points out that already has one of the lowest cost police forces in the country.
Suffolk Politics 7954127081697204154

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