Under pressure: police panel members vow to keep eye on Hampshire crime commissioner

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PRESSURE is mounting on the crime commissioner after a panel of politicians demanded he spend extra tax cash on frontline policing.

Michael Lane, Hampshire’s police and crime commissioner, was dealt a body blow yesterday as the Hampshire Police and Crime Panel refused to back his budget.

He had proposed to axe 160 jobs but also boost his own office’s budget with £440,000 for ‘essential staff’.

A unanimous vote in Winchester refusing to support the plans left Mr Lane free to increase council tax by £12 a year for a band D home – but demanded that extra cash only be spent on police officers and staff.

Mr Lane has promised to ‘reflect hard’ on his plans after councillors on the panel raised their constituents’ worries about the office cost hike.

The News exclusively revealed the proposal, which Mr Lane said was just the office being more ‘transparent’ as in previous years cash had been taken from reserves.

Police and crime commissioner Michael Lane

Police and crime commissioner Michael Lane

Mr Lane is still free to add the cash to his budget but will face the panel again soon.

But Fareham councillor and panel member, Trevor Cartwright, said: ‘He’s going to be really pushing his luck if he decides to up his office.

‘He’s got to go away and think about it, otherwise it would be bang out of order.’

The meeting heard yesterday panel members were inundated with concerns from residents about the plan.

Gosport councillor John Beavis said there had been ‘appalling PR’.

He said: ‘The public need to know the money that they’re paying is going on policing and providing them that support in their community and making them feel safer.’

Independent member Bob Purkiss derailed Mr Lane’s vision after winning backing for his motion that ‘any increase in funding is put directly and only in retaining and enhancing police officers and staff’.

Mr Lane asked for the council tax hike to save neighbourhood policing from cuts, as the force battles to make £24.75m by 2021/22, on top of £82m since 2011/12.

More than 1,000 police officers have been cut.

‘Specialist units, including traffic, marine, the force support unit and intelligence are now being heavily reduced.

Cllr Dave Stewart, chairman of the panel, said he remained ‘confident’ in Mr Lane.

He added: ‘We propose to have a further meeting in due course where everybody can understand what is done.

‘I would be disappointed if he didn’t reflect what had come out in the meeting.’

His office budget makes up around one per cent of the police budget in Hampshire.

In the meeting he said: ‘I’ll take very seriously what you have done to me on behalf of the communities that you’ve heard from.’