Leaders criticise police plan to up council tax

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POLITICAL leaders have criticised the police and crime commissioner over plans to increase council tax.

Hampshire PCC Simon Hayes wants to raise £2m by upping the policing precept by 1.99 per cent.

It comes as the Home Office slashed Hampshire Constabulary‘s budget by £10m for 2015/16.

Fareham Borough Council leader, Councillor Sean Woodward, said his council has lost 50 per cent of cash from government but has not upped council tax in seven years.

Cllr Woodward said: ‘I really think Mr Hayes needs to sort it out. We’ve managed to freeze it for seven years.’

The commissioner’s proposed increase would mean an increase of £3.07 a year for people in a band D property.

Gosport Borough Council and Portsmouth City Council also plan to freeze the tax.

Cllr Mark Hook, Gosport’s leader, said: ‘Mr Hayes shouldn’t be looking at increasing the police levy. With what local authorities are being asked to do they should be exercising the same.’

Precepting authorities – those responsible for setting the tax – could be in line to receive a one-per-cent increase in their grants if they freeze council tax.

Any authority that increases it by two per cent or more would trigger a referendum with constituents able to vote on it.

Cllr Hook added: ‘We’re still going through times of austerity so they should be playing their part, too.’

The government’s £10m cut to Hampshire police comes on top of the extra £25m it has to save by April 2017.

The force has already saved £55m since 2010, bringing the new total to £90m.

Cllr Donna Jones, Portsmouth’s leader, said she could not criticise Mr Hayes over the plan.

She said: ‘It’s below the rate of inflation. They’re a critical public service, I can’t possibly criticise him for it.’

Cllr Jones added she will freeze Portsmouth’s tax as long as the government pays out the grant for doing so.

Mr Hayes said police face different difficulties to local authorities as councils can charge for services.

He told The News: ‘We don’t charge for policing services, it’s 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – local authorities aren’t.

‘For me it’s what the public think, not what leaders think.’

The increase proposal will be debated on January 23.