Proposal to Increase Council Tax Announced by Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright

Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright

Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright

Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright (Conservative) has just announced his plans to increase the policing element of council tax by 1.9% as of April this year.

Mr Bright stood on a ten point manifesto, number six of which stated:

Not to put any additional burden on council tax

My view is that he has broken this promise. I think that those who stand for election and then break their manifesto pledges in this way damage the reputation of our democratic system.

I have published my views on the commissioner’s pre-election promise on council tax.

Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright has published only the figure for his proposed council tax increase; unlike other commissioners around the country he has not published his full budget and policing plan, not even in draft form, for comments.

Proposing a council tax increase probably suggests the commissioner is not envisaging signing up for wholesale outsourcing to G4S; however he hasn’t released sufficient information to enable informed commentary, we also don’t yet know to what extent the tax rise is required as a result of spending on his own office, his staff and deputy.

Our Police and Crime Commissioner could have accepted a government grant which would have paid the equivalent of a 1% increase in the police element of the council tax; this would have been paid for out of general taxation, yet he has decided he needs to take yet more money directly from council tax payers. As a property tax council tax hits those who might not have the income to pay it, it isn’t in my view as fair as income tax, yet the commissioner has decided to take yet more police funding from it.

Not accepting central government grants to freeze council tax was the position taken by the previous police authority; perhaps the fact their staff are still present, and advising the current Police and Crime Commissioner explains the continuation of the same policy.

This is a rebellious move from Conservative Graham Bright who is going against his party’s policy, as annunciated by Minister Eric Pickles, of seeking council tax freezes.

I hope the commissioner has made his party colleagues in government aware of the reasons he has not accepted their offer of a grant to enable a council tax freeze. A key problem appears to be uncertainty as the grants are for one year only (but have been made repeatedly). The commissioner may feel that he doesn’t have the profile or ability to communicate the problem to the people of Cambridgeshire, as the rational thing is surely to take the “bonus” from central Government now, but accept that as a result, if the “bonus” is not forthcoming in the future, a council tax rise might be needed then, but with Cambridgeshire residents keeping their money in their pockets in the mean-time.

It appears that the commissioner may have succumbed to pressure from the Chief Constable who made clear he will be pushing for an increase in the council tax precept, saying without it he will be forced to cancel recruitment and officer numbers will drop.

A 1% rise in the police element of council tax raises about £500,000 for the police *; so the commissioner’s proposals will raise about £1m.

In the current year Cambridgeshire Police has a budget of £127,625,000 funded by £48,973,000 from council tax and £77,825,000 from general taxation via central government *.

9 responses to “Proposal to Increase Council Tax Announced by Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright”

  1. In October 2012 the Chief Constable was quoted as saying:

    We’ve got recruitment plans that in addition to these 50 coming in over the next three months, we’ve got another 50 to 60 to recruit by February [2013].

    Today’s announcement by Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright states:

    Sir Graham Bright said that the proposal would increase by ten the number of local policing constables since his election

    My view is the Chief Constable was putting in place plans for a large amount of recruitment, to set up a bargaining position when negotiating with the Police and Crime Commissioner.

    Police Constable numbers are important, but we also need to know what they’re to be doing, if there are cuts in police staff resulting in constables having to spend more time doing administration the changes to the headline figures may not have an impact.

  2. Not only did Sir Graham make a manifesto commitment to no extra burden on council tax, he also said the following in his election acceptance speech.

    “There are significant challenges ahead, not least my determination to deliver effective policing while achieving the anticipated further substantial savings to our overall budget. ”

    What savings to the budget has he made while delivering an increase to the precept of 1.7%?

    • The central government police grant to Cambridgeshire for 2013-14 will be £80,210,686. (Source).

      We know the Commissioner is seeking to raise about an extra million pounds from his council tax hike. Last year council tax contributions to the police were £48,973,000 so this year we can expect £49,973,000. In addition there will be a further rise due to new homes which have been built in the county, previous budgets have factored in a 1% rise for this, so the total Cambridgeshire Police funding from council tax in 2013/14 may be expected to be £50,473,000.

      This gives a policing “income” from those two primary sources of £130,683,686.00 which is 2.4% higher than the current year’s £127,625,000.00 on a like for like comparison.

      We’ve not of course seen the budget yet but if the commissioner was planning to come in under this budget (or under the budget he’d be left with if he announced a council tax freeze) presumably he would not be seeking to raise council tax?

      There are further complicating elements: the police force can generate income from a number of sources, for example, it can, and does, supply services to other forces like the Met Police, it also gets to retain some recovered proceeds of crime, it also receives grants outside of the main grant. We also need to see details of capital plans – for example does the commissioner plan to sell off property – and what does he plan to do with money that raises? In addition the Commissioner has also inherited an organisation with about £26,000,000 in reserves – it’s a going concern – a Commissioner could spend more than he brings in and reduce those reserves.

      A budget is just a budget; it’s relatively easy to manipulate, what really counts is what actually happens during the year – I hope the Commissioner makes it easy for the Police and Crime Panel, and the wider public, to track and scrutinise any variances.

      It will certainly be interesting to see, when the Commissioner does publish his budget, if it’s a clear, easy to read, document or if it has been obfuscated.

  3. Next year’s central government grant is larger than the current year’s so I don’t see why the commissioner is saying:

    despite a 1.6 per cent decrease in Government grant.

    the Policing Minister’s announcement which stated each force will get a 1.6% cut in the central government grant.

    The sources as above say Cambridgeshire’s central government grant is ~£77m rising next year to ~£80m. I can only guess at possible reasons for the difference.

    We’ll need to wait for his budget to see what he is thinking.

  4. Richard, You are quite right I think I may have misquoted Sir Graham. I should have noticed that it was a coherent sentence! Sir Graham has actually given a mixed message throughout. He seems to suggest that he would not increase costs, make savings, and spend more. I listened again to the BBC radio interview of December 6th where he suggests that he would be making savings in his office compared to the old PA, then says the two organisations aren’t the same, and then says he will keep within a budget that he won’t reveal. Bottom line though he went to the electorate with a clear statement of no extra burden on council tax payers, and he intends to immediately break this.

  5. If I recall, the PA was faced in the past with the offer of central money rather than local council tax raises. I thought there was some complexity about increasing the base. If I understand this right if we have 100 and raise by 1 percent from council tax, next year the base for any further budget is 101. If we do this by accepting the government payout, next year the budget startpoint is still 100. So I suppose if you are a planner then you go for the council tax to ensure you have the 101 next year.

  6. I observed Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel on the 7th of February 2013 where the panel members unanimously endorsed the commissioner’s budget and council tax increase.

    Cllr Martin Curtis asked the commissioner if he had made any election pledges in relation to the council tax level. Commissioner Graham Bright admitted he had promised “no extra burden” and argued he had not broken this pledge on the grounds the increase was “below inflation”.

  7. And what do you think this will lead to?? They’re all going down the same boat. Big applause to national government for making unrealistic targets to “their minions” (councils, police, fire, the rest) because they can’t handle their own budgets. Blame throwing? Yes. Is Mr Bright a waste of space, time and money? Yes. But there’s a wider issue here.

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