PEOPLE in Devon and Cornwall will see their council tax bill rise to provide extra money for the region’s police force.
Friday’s decision by the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Panel means a six per cent increase and will add £15 per year to the contribution from band D properties.
Police and crime commissioner Alison Hernandez said the cash will provide the police with a revenue budget of £384 million covering 3,600 officers and will ensure 23 front desks are open at police stations.
The increased budget comes as the latest Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures show crime rose by 10.6 per cent in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly during the 12 months to September 2022. However, the figure is lower than the nation figure of 12.3 per cent.
In outlining the budget for 2023/24 Ms Hernandaz said consultations had shown ‘70 per cent of people agree that investment should be made to open more police stations to the public.
‘86 per cent of respondents said they would like to use police stations as locations to report crime and 65 per cent said they would like to share information with the police about what’s going on in their communities.’
Amid the ongoing inquest into the Keyham murders, the commissioner also outlined plans for £600,000 to improve checks for firearms’ licences in the region. Devon and Cornwall currently has the highest number of legally held firearms in Great Britain.
Members of the panel debated whether hard-pressed council taxpayers should always be responsible for funding the force’s operations in future.
Conservative councillor in Cornwall, Martyn Alvey, said proposed measures in his area might be an example to follow.
‘We’ve already made a commitment to double council tax on the second homes, provided the legislation is in place,” he said.
But Liberal Democrat councillor in Teignbridge, Alistair Dewhirst, insisted the lower-than-inflation increase in funding would still hit many people.
He said: ‘This £15 increase is a massive dent in poor families’ budgets in my district and clearly it’s a day’s food for a family, and we would want to see real value for it.’
Labour councillor in Plymouth, Zoe Reilly, asked what the extra money would mean, particularly for women the city, with increased concerns following Keyham. Cllr Reilly, who is also a caseworker for women affected by violence, suggested confidence in the police could be better.
‘Given the current situation, and misconduct publicly, particularly for women’s safety in Plymouth, I know that reporting crime for sexual abuse, sexual assault etc., isn’t actually considered to be that great.’
However, the commissioner insisted the support services funded by the police were crucial in giving victims confidence.
‘One of the things that my office does is it funds those services for those women, children and men to access,” she said. “They don’t even have to go to the police if they’re too frightened, not confident, however they may feel they can go direct to Victim Support.
‘And that service is one of the most empowering services that any victim of domestic violence can have because they can help you and support you through the reporting process.’
The 2023/24 police budget and the precept [the money for the police service], was approved by the panel.
Ms Hernandez has now raised the police precept five times since her first budget in 2017/18, the maximum permitted.
In other debates, following concerns raised at the panel last November about the length of time people were waiting for the police to answer 999 and 101 calls, the commissioner said there had been considerable improvement and 90 per cent of emergency calls were now picked up within 10 seconds.