Councillors ask police commissioner to push for more government cash after 12 years of cuts - in spite of a council tax hike for the force
Residents in band D homes – the middle bracket for council tax assessments – across Oxfordshire, Bucks and Berks will pay £10 more per year after proposals put forward by PCC Matthew Barber were sanctioned.
Mr Barber says the extra funds will go towards a developing a specialist rape and sexual offences team, a backroom team to fast track cases, improve the speed of work on forensics, add more officers, maintain a programme to tackle rural crime and establish a task force on drugs.
While the measures were supported unanimously by Thames Valley’s Police and Crime Panel, a group of councillors from across the three counties, concern was raised over the proportion of the force’s budget being funded through council tax rather than central government.
Mr Barber acknowledged a “disparity” with 44.8 per cent of the bill for policing in Thames Valley coming from council tax. The average across England is just 38.4 per cent.
“I have lobbied and will continue to lobby government for better funding for Thames Valley Police,” he said.
“I think there is plenty of light at the end of the tunnel with the funding formula. The Home Office is moving much faster on that issue than they have previously.
“There is definitely an argument for improving that funding moving forward. I think we are in a strong position to argue for an increase but we also need to be realistic, what the Home Office is looking at is shares of the pie rather than the size of that pie in the first instance.”
He highlighted that it would not be a simple case of getting the same percentage as other areas with the allocations subject to variables such as how sparsely populated rural areas are and the number of people leaving prison in an area.
Councillor Adele Barnett-Ward (Reading Borough Council, Lab, Caversham) replied: “I would encourage not accepting the size of the pie.
“We are now into a 12th year of cuts to the funding of public services and that has fallen very hard on the police.
“That is why this meeting is always very difficult. We are considering the burden that is put on our taxpayers who do, proportionately, fund their force more than the average across England.
“We also know the police are under huge funding pressures. It is difficult to balance and I would suggest there is a role for police and crime commissioners to argue for a bigger pie for everyone.”
Mr Barber said the scale of funds for policing overall would be a “separate conversation” to that about the proportion of funding and that more cash for police across the board is something he would “love to see”.