Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott has had his budget for 2023/24 approved by the Kent and Medway Police and Crime Panel. The budget won unanimous cross-party approval.
He proposed to increase the council tax precept by £15 a year, or 6.57% for a Band D property. That is equivalent to £1.25 a month or 4p a day. It would take the police section of the council tax for a Band D property to £243.15 a year.
Matthew Scott told councillors that Central Government funding has increased by only £4.1 million, which includes a projected 2% pay award to Police Officers, but not for police staff. He told them that he has asked for a review of the way central funds are provided, but at the moment the only way to maintain the current level of service was by local taxation. This budget will enable retention and support for the record level of police officers in Kent. (Kent now has 358 more officers than it did in 2010). Asking anything less than £15 a year would require reductions in staffing and service levels.
The decision to increase the precept has not been taken lightly. The cost-of-living pressures which everyone is facing are considerable and it is recognised that this is a further pressure. However, even with this increase the PCC can only mitigate some, not all, of the cost pressures in the 2023/24 police budget.
Matthew Scott said,
“I would not be asking for this if I didn’t think it was necessary and I absolutely appreciate the impact this will have on people’s budgets, but the alternative of not increasing the precept would unfortunately mean money would have to be found from somewhere else.”
Savings of £14.1 million will still be required. Some of that (£6.8 million) will be made through the Neighbourhood Policing Review*, but there remains £7.3 million of savings to be identified.
The proposed increase in precept will to be used to:
make up for the deficit in central government funding, to maintain our police officer numbers and to replace some PCSOs with regular police officers.
It will reduce the level of savings required for next year and limit further reductions in staff.
It will also enable continued investment in our police stations in Coldharbour, Maidstone, Sittingbourne, Folkestone, Tonbridge and Ashford.
It will maintain the popular police cadet programme.
As in previous years, there will be no increase in the cost of running the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) with the budget being maintained at £1.5m. This budget supports the ‘Making Kent Safer’ Police and Crime Plan and enables the PCC to continue to support victims of crime, local crime reduction initiatives, crime prevention strategies and the enhanced complaints process.
*The Neighbourhood Policing Review has seen a reduction in PCSO numbers across the county. However, they are being replaced by regular police officers, funded by the government Police Uplift scheme and previous precept increases.