MP and crime chief clash on tax rise plans

Police and Crime Commissioner Olly Martins.

Police and Crime Commissioner Olly Martins.

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The Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner has been asked to justify the proposed increase in the police council tax precept.

Bedford and Kempston MP Richard Fuller questioned Commissioner Olly Martins’ ahead of the referendum on May 7, when residents can vote on raising the precept by 15.8 per cent, or about 48p per week for Band D houses.

MP Richard Fuller.

MP Richard Fuller.

In a letter, Mr Fuller asked if the cost of a referendum can be justifed if it fails – around £600, 000.

Mr Martins said holding the referendum at the same time as the elections has reduced the cost to about a third of what it would be otherwise. If a yes vote is achieved, it will cost the taxpayer about £350,000.

He added should the referendum return a ‘no’ vote the additional cost will be covered by the force’s reserves. This will affect the medium-term finanial plan and bring forward a planned recruitment freeze expected for 2017/18.

Mr Fuller also sought confirmation there are no further cost savings in the current police budget, and clarification over staffing levels.

The commissioner responded the latest financial plan contains £17.5million of savings but there is a projected £6million shortfall in 2019/20. He added the annual cost of policing per head of population is £164.82 against a national average of £211.14 which will be reducing as the force collaborates with Cambs and Hert Constabularies.

Finally, Mr Fuller requested the exact wording of the referendum question, which is: “Do you want the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner to increase the amount it charges by 15.8 per cent?”.