An extra 44 frontline officers will be recruited by West Yorkshire Police after councillors backed a call by the Police and Crime Commissioner to ask council tax payers to foot the bill.
The Police and Crime Panel, which has powers to scrutinise and support the Commissioner’s activities, unanimously voted yesterday to give the go ahead for a 3.8 per cent rise in the police precept to pay for the officers.
The rise equates to a penny a day for the two-thirds of households in West Yorkshire that fall into council tax bands A and B. For those households in band D it will mean £5 a year.
After the meeting in Wakefield, Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said asking for a rise in the precept was not one he had taken “lightly”, but said it was necessary to protect the number of frontline officers in neighbourhood policing teams across West Yorkshire.
He said: “In an ideal world we wouldn’t be want to increase the council tax precept, but we have got to put it in the context that West Yorkshire has the third lowest precept in England and Wales and it’s been frozen for the last two years.
“We are losing more officers than we are recruiting over the year, so this will help to maintain the number of frontline officers. The majority of people have said they were prepared to pay more for policing and it’s not a decision I have taken lightly. I know that things are tough out there.”
Mr Burns-Williamson said he made the decision using feedback from his ‘Listening to You First’ consultation to ask council tax payers to pay more.
The 14 members on the panel included the deputy leader of Bradford Council, Councillor Imran Hussain, who described any rise as “undesirable” but said he had received assurances it would pay for frontline policing.
“We have had further reassurances that in the coming years any efficiency savings will be hopefully found in back office and not frontline services,” said Coun Hussain. “The other assurance is that the Neighbourhood Policing Teams will be protected.”
The 44 officers will be deployed across the county.
Councillor Michael Walls (Con, Queensbury) said he had quizzed Mr Burns-Williamson about the £1 million staffing costs for the office of the commissioner.
Coun Walls said: “He did say it was nearly the same as the police authority and they were all essential staff.
“He said he would look at making savings where possible in his own office.”