West Midlands Police has been given go-ahead to bring in 250 new constables next year - and 200 more the year after.

In all, West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Bob Jones has given the green light for the recruitment of 550 extra staff after councillors backed the force’s 2014/15 budget.

Mr Jones said 100 extra support staff will free up officers from behind their desks and get them back out on streets.

But the West Midlands Police and Crime Panel, which has the power to veto the budget, was unable to confirm a council tax increase for this year - because the Government has not yet announced details of funding for police forces.

It means West Midlands residents remain unsure whether their policing precept, added to the council tax, will rise by an inflation busting three per cent, or 1.5 per cent - or be frozen. At three per cent the average household will see their policing bill rise from £102.43 to £105.50 next year.
Conservative panel member Coun Deirdre Alden, pushed for the Commissioner to use £900,000 of the £72 million reserves in the police bank account to keep the rate down to 1.5 per cent.

She pointed out police treasurer Mike Williams had already described the police reserves as ‘embarrassingly high’.

She said: “You could do that without digging too far into the reserves.”

But Mr Jones countered: “We are already due to deploy all of the £72 million reserves, some on the recruitment of new officers. By the end of this financial period our reserves will not be embarrassingly high.”

Coun Alden’s call for a veto was voted down by eight to two and the budget approved.

Mr Jones apologised for the confusion over the tax rate, but said that the Department for Local Government and Communities and Home Office had still not confirmed its funding settlements to forces.