Norfolk policing precept to rise £4.14 a year

Stephen Bett Norfolk's new Police and Crime Commissioner ENGANL00120121122145829

Stephen Bett Norfolk's new Police and Crime Commissioner ENGANL00120121122145829

Norfolk’s police and crime panel rubberstamped a 1.98 per cent increase in its precept at a meeting at County Hall on Tuesday.

The unanimous decision means an increase of £4.14 a year for band D community tax payers.

The police and crime commissioner Stephen Bett had originally asked for a freeze in the precept, but that was voted down by the panel after the chief constable Simon Bailey said his force needed more money.

The figure of 1.98 per cent was the highest that could be imposed without triggering a referendum.

Mr Bett defended himself from accusations that his request for a freeze was election-year grandstanding.

He said: “Panel members will not need reminding of the stark messages from the county’s chief constable at the last meeting. No-one in the room could be left in any doubt that policing faces huge challenges.

“The chief constable’s pleas did not fall on deaf ears but – as I also made it clear last time – the Chancellor and Home Secretary pulled a huge financial rabbit out of the hat in announcing the protection of police budgets – and that move gave us options.

“On balance I decided to propose a freeze. However I was not prepared for the depth of feeling from Members on the day in favour of a maximum two per cent rise, especially given the political makeup of the panel. I have to say that took me by surprise.

“I have been accused of one or two things down the years – in fact I was accused of one or two things at the last meeting – but one thing I always try and do is listen. I have prided myself on being a listening PCC, and have always tried to leave the politics at the front door.

“If I was not expecting a veto last time, I was certainly not expecting a vote of nine to one. It was a majority I could not ignore. I can assure you my original proposal was sincere, and it was made after carefully weighing up all the options.”

After the meeting, Lorne Green, Mr Bett’s Conservative opponent in May’s PCC election said: “The Commissioner has demonstrated lack of judgment and political opportunism in his reckless handling of taxpayers’ money.

“It will not be lost that only twice has the incumbent proposed a tax freeze, both in advance of PCC elections.

“There can be no confidence that this commissioner has the sound judgment to set the precept on the basis of objective analysis of the needs for effective policing rather than political opportunism.”