Increased budget for Sussex Police gets backing from scrutiny panel

Katy Bourne
Katy Bourne

A scrutiny panel backed a police budget that will see investment in services including safeguarding vulnerable children and tackling cybercrime.

The Sussex Police budget includes a 1.98 per cent increase in council tax - the equivalent to an additional £2.79 per household, per year on a Band D property.

At a meeting on Friday, January 23, the Sussex Police and Crime Panel quizzed Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne on plans for the force and the reason behind the increase.

The rise in its share of council tax will achieve an additional £2.6m for Sussex Police, money that Ms Bourne assured the panel would be used to improve the service and not plug holes in the budget.

The extra funding will be targeted at providing mobile devices for frontline officers, recruiting Sexual Offence Liaison Officers for investigations into sexual offences, high risk domestic abuse, child abuse and sexual exploitation.

There were suggestions from members of the Panel that Sussex Police could freeze its share of the council tax and take advantage of a Government grant.

But Ms Bourne told members: “We don’t know how long the grant will last for – the £1.6m increase in the budget will stay, so is worth a lot more than the £800,000 grant for freezing.”

Calls for greater collaboration between forces in the South East and a reduction in cost for the commissioner’s office were made by Panel members.

The commissioner assured the Panel that work on greater collaboration with other forces was ongoing and that the cost of running her own office was kept to a minimum, with no increase since her arrival in 2012.

Satisfied that all areas for savings had been explored and that extra funding would be used to improve important services, the Panel voted in favour of the budget.

Panel chairman cllr Brad Watson said: “We were pleased to hear that additional money raised through the increase will be targeted to enhance frontline policing, fight the growing threat of cyber-crime and protect the most vulnerable people in our communities.

“We were also delighted to hear that our taxpayers are paying the fourth lowest precept for policing in the country and the lowest, by a significant margin, for the office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.”