Bid to veto Sussex PCC’s council tax rise fails

Katy Bourne at last year's election count with Michael Jones. The Labour runner up attempted to veto her plans for a council tax rise at a Sussex Police and Crime Panel meeting
Katy Bourne at last year's election count with Michael Jones. The Labour runner up attempted to veto her plans for a council tax rise at a Sussex Police and Crime Panel meeting
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A bid to veto plans to increase Sussex Police’s share of council tax has failed.

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne is planning a 3.36 per cent rise, equivalent to an extra £5 a year for a Band D property, to help fund more than 100 extra officers and specialist staff.

Areas for investment include more specialist firearms officers, public protection investigators, expert youth teams, and community priority crime teams.

However several members of the Sussex Police and Crime Panel raised concerns about a lack of information and Michael Jones, a Labour county and borough councillor for Crawley, proposed the panel exercise its veto.

However this was defeated by eight votes to seven at a meeting at County Hall in Lewes today (Friday January 20).

Mr Jones, who finished second in last year’s Sussex PCC elections behind Mrs Bourne, asked why they were increasing the precept to fund new officers when front-line neighbourhood policing numbers were being cut.

He said: “I do not feel we have got enough information in time.”

Sandra James, UKIP group leader at West Sussex County Council, echoed these comments, adding: “People are seeing gross reductions in the services that they perceive from their local policing model.”

She suggested they had not seen a ‘serious business case’ and suggested some of the new staff would be doing tasks Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) had previously undertaken.

Ms James asked Mrs Bourne: “Are you not fixing a gap that effectively you have created?”

Mrs Bourne explained that PCSOs had been given extra powers and this had made them more effective, as they now had body worn cameras and mobile technology, and could also take down basic investigations.

She added: “Do not get too fixed on the numbers. For more it’s about whether people are effective.”

Mrs Bourne continued: “This paper is not a veneer. This is a serious operational business case.”

She also went on to explain that she was not raising council tax to plug budget gaps but to invest this money.

She explained: “It’s really important the force continues to find ways to be more efficient and effective within its means.”

After the meeting, Mrs Bourne added: Local policing is adapting to match changes in crime so the new community priority crime teams will provide extra resources to crack down on small groups and individuals committing low-level crime and anti-social behaviour in our towns and villages.

“Early intervention is proven to help steer young people away from crime. Our expert youth teams will be working across the agencies, including our schools, in order to spot the opportunities when the most susceptible are in danger of crossing the line.”

She continued: “After the terrorist attacks in Europe and with the UK threat level set as ‘severe’, it is important that people can be reassured that in Sussex we have enough specialist armed officers and equipment. When they are not being deployed or in training, authorised firearms officers support local policing teams so an uplift of 52 officers will put more highly trained officers on our streets.

“This increase will also mean more public protection investigators. In previous precept consultations I have asked the public to help fund additional resources in this area.

“Although this has increased the number of officers and staff, Sussex still spends less per head of population than similar-sized forces as the reporting of these types of crime continues to rise so this investment is greatly needed.”

Giles York, chief constable at Sussex Police, said: “The new policing model has been designed to meet the demands of modern policing and we are confident that it will work well.

“I welcome the investment that allows us to provide extra focus on areas where the most harm or vulnerability exists.

“It will be spent directly on keeping the public safer against terrorism, digital crime and increased reporting of sexual offences.

“It will also help make people feel safer through even stronger prevention teams working in their neighbourhoods.”

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