Police watchdogs for the Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire area approve 6.9% council tax increase

A scrutiny panel has accepted the police and crime commissioner’s budget proposal to increase the Thames Valley Police’s share of the council tax by nearly 7 per cent.

Police and crime commissioner Anthony Stansfeld told today’s (Friday) meeting of the Thames Valley Police and Crime Panel that he would rather not put the council tax up but needed to look after the finances.

The Government has relaxed its rules to allow police forces, including those covering the Thames Valley, to increase their share of the Band D council tax by £15. The panel has looked at options for lower increases but rejected them.

Mr Stansfeld told the meeting, the 25th in his nearly nine years as PCC, that the force needs the maximum amount to continue to increase police numbers, protect neighbourhood policing and the number of police and community support officers (PCSOs) across the region.

The police precept has been approved

“I would rather not put up the precept at all,” Mr Stansfeld said, adding that all forces in the south east have also taken the £15 maximum allowed.

“It was a take it or leave it option,” he said.

He added that the amount that the police were receiving from central government is falling and the force faces a budget crunch in a few years time as reserves are also being used.

“I would far rather not put it up but Government funding is being reduced and we’ve had to put it up,” he said.

“£15 is a slightly better opportunity and we’ve taken that,” he added.

When next April’s budgets are finally set next month by upper tier local authorities such as Milton Keynes Council, £231.28 from all the Band D charges – plus bills from the other property bands – will go to the police. It will give TVP a budget of £213million.

The PCC was quizzed on why the budget for his office staff is set to increase by £91,000. He said his office was one of the lowest spending PCC offices in the country, and has recently taken on responsibility for victims.

The committee was also told that two posts were previously funded by the Home Office, and another post was useful in providing data for community partnerships.

Mr Stansfeld said the police are using technology to become more efficient, including spending on drones that cost £6,000 each. He said he would like to see the force eventually getting rid of costly helicopters.

In his final words to the panel, Mr Stansfeld said he regretted that Government cuts over the years meant an increasing call on council tax payers.

“There’s not much I can do about that but complain,” said the Conservative PCC.

But he said he thinks the situation of “endless budget cuts” is beginning to turn around and look “much better for the future.