Extra police officers pledged amid council tax rise of more than 10pc
Archant Norfolk 2016
Council tax bills to pay for policing in Norfolk are to rise by more than 10pc, with the county’s chief constable saying the extra money is essential to keep communities safe.
It will add £24 a year to bills for a band D property - 46p a week - the maximum rise possible without triggering a referendum.
But chief constable Simon Bailey said it would mean he could hire extra officers and help head off some further cuts on top of the £34m over the past nine years.
The increase was proposed by Lorne Green, the Conservative police and crime commissioner for Norfolk.
Mr Green said: “It’s not a decision I ever take lightly. I remain sensitive to the financial pressures on the taxpayers of Norfolk.
“It’s my duty to balance that burden on council tax payers with the safety of our county.”
Chief constable Mr Bailey said he had lobbied Mr Green to increase the police precept by the maximum amount.
He said: “The demands we are having to deal with on a daily basis are changing.”
He said the past 48 hours saw three break-ins across Norfolk, but the force will have had more than 150 reports of domestic abuse and far more allegations of rape and sexual offences in that time.
He said: “The challenges are here today and will be here tomorrow.
“They will unequivocally get more and more complex.
“We are picking up some of the gaps left by other services struggling to cope with their own pressures.
“I see the pressures on the ambulance service and on mental health services and we are having to surge into areas where, historically, we have not had to get involved.”
He said he needed to invest to keep murders and stabbings in urban areas such as Norwich, Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn down against the backdrop of County Lines - where criminal gangs in bigger cities, including London, have moved their dealing to smaller areas.
Mr Green’s office carried out consultation, in which 68.5pc of those who took part said they would be prepared to pay more for policing.
Of that proportion, 70pc said they would be prepared to pay £24 more per year.
Mr Green said a council tax freeze would have led to the force losing 90 officers.
By putting council tax up by the maximum amount, it will allow 40 extra officers to be hired.
Mr Bailey said that would include eight officers for Great Yarmouth in an extension to the Operation Moonshot initiative targeting criminals.
Mr Bailey said: “There is going to be a visible uplift in uniformed presence.”
Mr Green said it would mean the force would have a greater number of people dedicated to County police activity than before the controversial decision to abolish the county’s 150 PCSOs.
Members of the Police and Crime Panel, made up of county, district, city and borough councillors and independent members, unanimously accepted the precept proposal.
Questions had been asked about visible policing presence, but Mr Bailey said investment in 104 best managers meant that neighbourhood policing was out there.
He said in Norwich there were now more officers than before PCSOs were abolished.
However, he said the changing face of crime and financial pressures meant he faced challenges in balancing that visible presence with detective work.
He said: “Do I put an officer outside Boots or do I deal with an allegation that somebody has raped a child?”
But Mr Bailey warned even the £24 a year increase would not solve the force’s financial pressures.
He said: “I will still have incredibly tough decisions to make.
“I wouldn’t want you to think an extra £24 a week is going to solve that. I’m sorry, but it’s not going to.
“I still have a deficit in my medium term plan as we move forward.
“We are still going to need to find millions of pounds of savings.”
Council tax bills are made of amounts which go to the police, county councils, city, borough or district councils and, in some parts of Norfolk, town or parish councils.
Norfolk County Council will set its budget next week and is planning on a 2.99pc increase, which will add £39.51 a year to a Band D property.