To consider a paper outlining the Police and Crime Commissioner’s proposed precept for 2019/20, and supporting financial information.
Members received an overview from the Commissioner of his budget report and supporting presentation on the proposed precept for the 2019/20 financial year.
The Commissioner explained that the proposal to increase the precept by £24 per annum for the Band D properties, or £2 per month, was essential to enable the Constabulary to continue to protect the public from risk and harm and to support the Constabulary to make necessary changes towards meeting the changing nature of crime in years to come.
It was heard the proposed increase would provide £16m of additional essential funding and that all monies raised through the policing precept would be utilised in support of the local policing. The Chief Constable had shown her support for the increase, suggesting additional funds would allow for the training and recruitment of circa 210 police officers.
Public consultation undertaken on behalf of the Commissioner had shown that 76.38% of respondents supported the proposal, and the Commissioner explained that the proposed precept was also supported by Neighbourhood Watch, the Hampshire Police Federation and Unison.
The Commissioner explained that several scenarios, had been considered in proposing this year’s precept, which had been shared with the Panel’s finance working group during the lead into the precept setting. The Commissioner shared details of the impact of a £12 increase compared to a £24 increase, with the £12 increase requiring the Constabulary to reduce their establishment by 150, bringing it to an unsafe level.
The Commissioner expressed his concerns that the current funding formula placed the Hampshire Policing area at a disadvantaged position compared to other forces, to an estimated figure of £41.6m per annum. To mitigate this and to protect the forces current capability and meet technological requirements it was estimated that a minimum increase of £12 would be required in 2020/21.
Councillor Frank Rust joined the meeting
Members viewed a short video presentation by the Chief Constable.
The Chairman invited Michael Coombes to provide an overview of the scrutiny undertaken by the Finance Working group leading up to the precept review. He explained that the working group had met six times in the last year and had looked in detail at the scenarios presented, the content of the draft budget report, reserve profiles and other relevant financial information shared by the OPCC.
Mr Coombes highlighted that Members were invited, by the Commissioner, to observe the face-to-face public consultation events. Debate was held at the most recent finance working group meeting around whether such events presented value for money, following which Members concluded that the face-to-face event enabled the Commissioner to gather a more representative public viewpoint which was useful in supporting the Panel’s scrutiny of the proposed precept.
Following their pre-scrutiny, the working group made recommendation to the Panel that the Commissioner’s proposed precept be supported.
The Chairman moved to questions from the wider Panel. In response to questions, Members heard:
· Recruiting the 200 police officers outlined within the budget proposal would bring the Constabulary’s establishment back to full strength. The Commissioner would be monitoring the impact of the increase in officers in terms of visibility and enhancement to services and would provide a regular update to the Panel’s plan working group.
· The Commissioner had sought to undertake a demographically balanced consultation. Responses to the online consultation were regularly monitored and targeted attraction strategies used where specific demographic groups were noted to be under represented in the responses. The online consultation had the highest level of responses nationally and was assessed to be statistically viable.
· Residents attending the face-to-face consultation events expressed concern over increases in taxation locally, at a time when policing was seen to be underfunded by central government.
· The Commissioner would only propose increased precept levels in future years if it was needed to ensure public safety and deliver the required level of policing for Hampshire, Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight.
· For 2018/19 it was anticipated that the policing budget would deliver an underspend of £1m, against a total budget of £315m. This amount would be added to reserves and then drawn to meet requirements in the coming year.
· From 2020/21 a recurrent £2m was to be set aside, for use by the Chief Constable, to meet cost pressures and growth requirements in year. History of spend against the budget has demonstrated this to be an ongoing need and allows for prudent planning to avoid diverting funds from other planned activity.
· Reserves are under significant pressure, both from local need and nationally required programmes. Whilst funding to deliver many of these projects was drawn from reserves, sustaining enhancements delivered is supported from the core policing budget.
· The investigation into deaths at Gosport War Memorial Hospital is anticipated to add a £7m cost to the policing budget, of which £3.5m will need to be met by Hampshire Constabulary before national funding may be sought.
Following questions, the Chairman moved to debate. Members discussed their support for the increase in precept, noting that this would protect the public from risk and harm and provide an opportunity enhance visible policing within communities. Members however expressed caution over increases in the future, and the impact this may have upon the goodwill of the public to support local taxation increases to fund policing.
Councillor Stewart proposed a recommendation to support the Commissioner’s proposed precept of £24 per annum for Band D properties. The motion was seconded by Councillor Bound.
A vote took place on the endorsement of the proposed increase to the policing precept, which was agreed unanimously, by all 17 Members present.
That the Police and Crime Panel support the Police and Crime Commissioner’s (PCC’s) proposed precept increase of £24 per annum for Band D properties, which is the equivalent of £2 per month, or 46p per week.
That the following is noted by the Panel:
1.1. That the full precept increase will be utilised in support of local policing, including enabling the Constabulary to proceed with the recruitment of circa 200 officers.
1.2. That 61% of households across Hampshire and the IOW are in properties in council tax bands A-C and would therefore see a precept increase of less than £24 per annum if the above recommendation is supported.
1.3. 1.3. The results from the public consultation identify overall public support for the £24 precept increase at 76.38%, with further endorsements from the Chief Constable, Police Federation, UNISON and Neighbourhood Watch.