Demand made for new police recruits paid for by £24 council tax hike to be deployed in Portsmouth
DEMANDS have been made for dozens of new police recruits to be put on patrol in the city after a council tax hike was brought in to pay for them.
Councillors approved Hampshire police and crime commissioner Michael Lane's budget – which includes a £24 a year increase in the police precept.
Mr Lane said this will bring in 200 extra officers, 65 investigators and a new cadre of PCSOs.
But at a meeting of the county's police and crime panel he was warned that the inflation-busting rise was testing the 'goodwill' of ratepayers.
The News revealed budget papers indicate police will want to increase council tax for years to come in a bid to make up for a shortfall in government funding.
Speaking at the meeting, David Shield said: ‘As a third of all the crime is happening in (Portsmouth and Southampton), it will not be unreasonable to have a third of these new officers deployed to these areas.’
Around £90m has been cut from Hampshire’s budget since 2011/2012.
The hike in tax will make £16m for Hampshire, while Home Office will fork out an extra £3.8m in a direct grant on top of previous years' funding.
At the meeting Mr Lane said: ‘Policing in Hampshire is under significant financial pressure. We are underfunded by £14m compared to the standard force, despite being one of the biggest forces in the country.
‘All the additional money raised will go to protecting local policing.’
But borough councillors warned that repeatedly increasing the tax could soon wear thin on the cash-strapped pupil in Hampshire. Mr Lane told councillors he had no plan to increase it again in 2020/21, despite indications this could happen.
Gosport borough councillor John Beavis said: ‘This local tax is to cover government funding shortfalls. A 13 per cent increase to local taxation is a significant amount above the rate of inflation.’
Havant councillor Gary Hughes added: ‘You have the goodwill of the people (in support of the increase), but I would raise caution that if you continue this year on year rise, this goodwill will be lost.’
But Cllr Dave Stewart, chairman of the panel, said: ‘I am pleased to say that the panel unanimously supported the recommendation.’
William Rimell, local democracy reporter