Tax rise ‘would save police jobs’

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Fears of damaging cuts to policing across Lincolnshire - including job losses - appear to be receding, provided the public agrees to a massive hike in Council Tax bills.

The force was facing the alarming prospect of a £7m shortfall in funding next year, prompting Chief Constable Bill Skelly to warn of major cuts with front-line officers and PCSO’s facing the axe.

However, the Government has given the go ahead for Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to increase their share of Council Tax bills.

In Lincolnshire, owners of an average Band D rated property could face a £24 rise - if PCC Marc Jones decided to implement the maximum increase.

According to sources, this would raise an additional £5m.

The Government’s increase in grant funding amounts to around £2.4m.

Added together, that would appear to wipe out the £7m shortfall.

However, Lincolnshire Police are committed to paying £2.6m next year to cover an increase in pension payments.

In addition, the force took £5m out of its own cash reserves last year to help balance the books and stave off cuts.

There are no cash reserves left, meaning that £7m increase will effectively amount to a ‘status quo’ situation.

Add in inflation and increased costs - including things like fuel and wages - and I understand the force could still face a £2m shortfall.

While potentially worrying, that shortfall should not lead to major changes.

Full details won’t be available until the PCC and Chief Constable present their budget early in the New Year.

Mr Jones has welcomed the boost in funding but warned he and other prominent figures - including the county’s MPs - are still pressing for a fairer deal for Lincolnshire.

One problem with the Council Tax rise is Lincolnshire’s small population. The same increase in Kent would equate to an extra £25m.

Mr Jones has yet to commit to the maximum increase and stressed he will only do so after studying the public’s response to his annual crime survey.

Available on line, the survey includes a section asking whether the public would pay more.

Mr Jones said: “It is recognised that Lincolnshire is negatively affected by the current national funding formula and vital work continues with Government to address this fundamental problem.

“Without that change we will still face the challenge of delivering the best possible service across a vast area on less money per head of population than almost anywhere in the UK.”

Regarding council tax bills, Mr Jones added: “This year I have been given the flexibility to consult the public on raising the policing element of council tax by 50p a week (on a band D property).

“I have launched my crime and policing survey and would urge all residents to have their say.

“Your views really do matter and will shape the service you receive.

“There remains a challenge of presenting a balanced budget for next year but I am confident this can be achieved whilst delivering a strong level of service to the public.”

Mr Jones will be mindful that added together with the police, proposed increases in the county council, district council and town/parish council elements of council tax bills could add around £100 for a Band D property.

•To take part in the survey go to https://lincolnshirecrimeandpolicingsurvey2018.questionpro.com