Extra council tax ‘will keep momentum going’ for Sussex Police

The Sussex Police portion of household council tax bills will increase by £15 a year in April.

Sussex PCC Katy Bourne
Sussex PCC Katy Bourne

The rise – the maximum allowed – was approved during a meeting of the Sussex Police and Crime Panel on Friday (January 29).

A report presented to the meeting showed that, since 2018/19, the bill has risen by £61 but is still one of the lowest in England and Wales.

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Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said she would ensure savings were found ‘wherever they can be’ and added: “This isn’t just about saying ‘pay more and we’ll just put our feet up’, this is absolutely about  continuing the focus to get the most we can for the money that is paid.”

Mrs Bourne laid out some of the work the increase would help to fund.

It included opening more Sergeant and Inspector posts in the Response and CID teams, investing more in the rural crime team, taking on more investigators and expanding work to give a better service to victims.

There will also be more officers dealing with the violent crime and sexual offences register and more focus on public confidence and dealing with Freedom of Information requests on time.

Not everyone on the panel agreed with the rise, pointing out that times were hard and many people were already having trouble paying bills.

There was also some concern that the public consultation into the precept rise had not reached everyone who needed to get involved.

Sussex Police – like all other organisations across the country – has been hit hard by the pandemic.

A report to the panel said Covid had cost the force £2.5m and there was still a £1.4m shortfall to cover.

So would the force be able to carry out all the work listed by Mrs Bourne if the rise was not put in place?

Her simple answer was ‘no’.

She said: “This is about growth.

“What would happen is we would continue with what we do but, bearing in mind the cost pressures with the pandemic, the ongoing difficulties that Local Authorities are going to have – all those pressures on top will have an effect on policing in the long term.

“This is about trying to not just sustain but actually maintain where we’re going and keep that momentum going.”

After the meeting, Chief Constable Jo Shiner said: “I welcome the additional local investment that will be used to further strengthen our service, which to date has seen more enforcement teams, more investigators and greater community engagement.

“In these unprecedented times, this additional funding will help us to continue to meet increasing and changing demand while continuing to relentlessly pursue justice for victims of crime.

“We will use the additional funding to strengthen our partnership response to tackling county lines criminality and exploitation, alongside more investment in our ability to protect the public from the most dangerous offenders. Alongside more investigators and more supervisors, we will continue to invest in our rural crime and anti-corruption capabilities. We will invest in public confidence, providing a dedicated team to listen to complaints, comments and compliments. The Public Confidence Team will ensure issues are resolved swiftly and effectively, and alongside this we will also invest in engagement, securing new ways for the public to give us feedback and expanding the way we listen to victims’ experiences, such as surveying by text message.

“We will invest in technology by enhancing and improving how we capture digital evidence and adopting a smarter approach to low-harm, high-volume crime investigation to ensure more offenders are brought to justice. We will develop our analytics capability to gain new insights into criminal networks and generate capacity by using intelligent automation across our business.

“We are committed to protecting our communities, catching criminals and delivering an outstanding service.”