DORSET Police is asking residents if they would be willing to pay additional council tax to help it deliver a balanced budget, recruit new officers and pay for additional costs.
Residents of Lyme Regis have been calling for an increased police presence in the town for years, with the issue stressed even further this summer following a spate of anti-social behaviour and violent incidents, which resulted in the town council paying for private security guards to patrol the seafront.
Earlier this month, West Dorset’s Neighbourhood Inspector Darren Stanton promised that officers would be based in Lyme Regis in future following a national police recruitment drive.
Now, Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Martyn Underhill is asking if residents would be willing to pay the equivalent of £1.25 a month extra to increase police presence and ensure the force can deliver a balanced budget.
Mr Underhill said: “I know we’ve all been through a terrible year. But during this time of uncertainty it’s more important than ever to ensure our police force has the funding it needs to meet new challenges head on.
“I’m asking our county’s residents if they would pay the equivalent of £1.25 a month to ensure Dorset Police can deliver a balanced budget, recruit new officers and pay for additional costs – some of which have been created because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This year has been unlike anything we’ve ever been through, and despite the positive news about vaccines, I’m afraid to say the pandemic is far from over.
“Considering that the government is faced with arguably one of the biggest challenges since the Second World War, I have to be realistic about the nation’s finances. In the circumstances, I welcome the funding package received by Dorset Police, which provides some flexibility and will enable the force to continue recruiting new officers over the next year.
“But the recent Government Spending Review prioritised COVID-19 and so Police and Crime Commissioners like myself have been asked to raise their precept levels to help forces balance budgets.
“Policing has been placed on the front line, dealing with this crisis – something that has brought with it new costs – and this means additional funding is needed which once again will not come from central government.
“An extra £1.25 a month, based on an average Band D property, will enable Dorset Police to meet these costs, provide an enhanced service in the face of the global health emergency, and recruit new officers.”
How will the money be spent?
Dorset Police is now predicting that it will recruit 64 new officers by the end of March – more than had been planned. Now, in the second year of the government’s three year ‘uplift’ programme, the force plans to recruit further officers in 2021/22.
But police forces have faced considerable budgetary pressures in recent years with the need to manage more demand, real-terms cuts to funding and a number of nationally imposed costs.
Mr Underhill said: “I remain immensely frustrated that the financial burden for policing is being passed to local taxpayers once again. I have consistently argued that the funding settlement is unfair to smaller forces like ours, which has to make up almost half of its budget through local taxation.
“Although I have already said I will not be standing in next year’s PCC elections, I will use my remaining months in office to continue demanding a fairer settlement for Dorset Police, which remains one of the lowest funded forces in the country.
To have your say on the police precept (the portion of council tax charged by Dorset Police), click here to complete the survey.