FAMILIES across the West Midlands will have to fork out an extra £24 a year to keep the thin blue line from breaking.
The region’s Police & Crime Commissioner is to increase the policing precept – the amount householders pay in their council tax – to £152.55 per annum.
It is the maximum allowed for West Midlands Police and is the amount charged for a B and D property.
It comes at a time when the region appears gripped in a crimewave of carjacking, knife and gun attacks.
The figure was agreed as part of the Commissioner’s 2019/20 budget for the force passed by the West Midlands Police and Crime Panel.
“To ensure the force doesn’t shrink any further, the Government has strongly indicated it expects PCCs to increase council tax by the maximum amount, said Commissioner David Jamieson.
“That means a £24-a-year increase for a B and D taxpayer.
“A £24 increase in the West Midlands still means local people will pay at least £40 less than people living in areas covered by neighbouring forces such as Staffordshire, West Mercia and Warwickshire - who charge much higher precepts.
“With the force still facing real terms cuts, it is the only option left to protect officer numbers.
“I would prefer the Government not to shift the cost onto local council taxpayers, but they have left no other option.
“Government funding does not match the huge increases in pension costs that they have placed on West Midlands Police and inflationary pressures we are facing.
"This means that to plug the gap in police funding, the Government has essentially mandated Commissioners to increase the council tax by the maximum amount, or cut officer numbers even further.”
Most of West Midlands Police’s budget comes from central government – but hat element of the budget will face a real terms cut once inflation and additional pensions costs from the government are considered.
And that, says the Commissioner, is on top of cuts of £175 million since 2010.
It is the Commissioner who is responsible for setting the budget for West Midlands Police. This includes setting the local ‘police precept’, which is the part of council tax that goes to the police.Today's crime stories
The amount the force can raise per household from council tax is the second lowest in the England at just £128.55 per year (for a Band D council taxpayer). That compares to Surrey, which have the highest rate of £236.57.
The police funding announcement from central government for 2019/20 cut the spending power of local forces and required Police and Crime Commissioners to seek money from the local council ta payers in their areas. The force is also facing additional pensions costs of £15.4 million from government.
“In official Government documents, the Home Office and Treasury expects that all Police Crime and Commissioners will increase the precept by the maximum amount,” said a spokesman for the PCC’s office. “Therefore it is essentially a Government expectation that police precepts are increased by the maximum amount.
“The Commissioner asked people for their thoughts on the Government proposed £24-a-year increase on the policing precept. This would mean the force will not shrink further. It would still leave local people paying at least £40 less than people in neighbouring force areas such as Staffordshire, West Mercia and Warwickshire.
“Seventy-six per cent of the over 500 consultation responses were supportive of the budget plans.”