The region’s deputy police and crime commissioner has told councillors that Birmingham taxpayers already have a “bargain police force” as she outlined plans to increase council tax to help pay for new officers.
The force announced last month that Commissioner Bob Jones is planning to use £60 million of cash reserves and a 6p per week increase in council tax to fund the recruitment of new officers.
The cash will be spent on 450 new officers and 100 staff, who will be used to free up a further 100 police for front line duties.
Speaking at a meeting of Birmingham’s social cohesion and community safety scrutiny committee this week, Mr Jones’ deputy, Yvonne Mosquito, said the force was already a bargain before any increase.
She said: “The current level of council tax precept here in Birmingham for West Midlands Police is just 14 per cent, which is the second lowest level in the country, behind Northumbria.
“The highest precepts are double the amount that is charged by West Midlands Police and other comparable forces are around 40 per cent higher.
“The force is already a bargain force for the local taxpayer and we are doing exceptionally well at driving down crime levels and using what resources we have smartly.”
The deputy commissioner said Birmingham taxpayers currently pay around £102 per year as a band D taxpayer and added that the proposed three per cent increase would cost around 6p per week and £3 per year to help fund the two-year recruitment drive.
Deputy Commissioner Mosquito added: “We are having to find savings of £152 million over five years and the use of the A19 regulation has led to more officers leaving the force than expected.
“We are now at a point where we have not recruited since 2010 and we will not have any officers under the age of 25 by next year.
“The recruitment of new officers is not extra officers, will stem the losses and allow us to continue our preventative approach to crime and avoid what the commissioner has called a tipping point in rising crime and falling police officer numbers.”
Committee member, Gareth Moore (Cons, Erdington), said: “I welcome the fact that people are being consulted on these plans and I welcome seeing more officers on the streets.
“However, I am concerned about a precept increase and the effect that this will have on some of the poorest families in the city.”
Councillor Penny Hollbrook, (Lab, Stockland Green) added: “I think that the financial and emotional costs of rising crime would be considerably more than the £3 rise that is proposed and I am comfortable with this.”
The deputy commissioner also told the meeting that the force was also looking at ways to ensure that the proposed recruitment push addresses the shortage of black and minority ethnic officers (BMEs).
She added: “We are looking at ways that we can increase the recruitment of BME officers in the West Midlands.
“The force does not currently reflect the community it serves and we have a situation where BME groups account for 42 per cent of the Birmingham population and 34 per cent of the West Midlands.
“But the force figures are at around eight or nine per cent. It is not particularly good, but we are trying to address that.”
Committee Chairman, Waseem Zaffar, (Lab, Lozells and East Handsworth), said: “It is always disappointing that we have to increase the precept but there does not seem to be any alternatives.”
Speaking about the proposals at a Police and Crime Board meeting last month, Bob Jones said: “I am hoping that this two year injection of resources, which combines cash reserves and a modest precept increase for council tax payers of 6p per week, will keep us off the slippery slope of increasing crime and reduced resources.
“I want to act before we reach a tipping point and to keep us off the slippery slope in the first place.”
The public can have a say on the proposals until January, by going to www.westmidlands-pcc.gov.uk.
Last week the force also announced plans to scrap the controversial regulation that has forced out 559 police officers with 30 years of service.
Chief Constable Chris Sims ended the A19 pension regulation, which has led to the enforced retirement of scores of experienced police officers.
The review of A19 follows the announcement to recruit new police officers and police staff.
Since the implementation of A19 in March 2011, 559 officers have retired from the force under this regulation.
A further 799 officers have left the force over the same period for other factors. The force’s current police officer strength now stands at 7,262.