Cllr Paul Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Surrey's Police and Crime Commissioner, has criticized the decision of Surrey's Police and Crime Commissioner David Munro to press ahead with a 5.5% increase in his council tax precept, ignoring the concerns of the Surrey Police and Crime Panel and the public.
The majority of the Panel voted to reject the proposed increase, but as two-thirds of the Panel did not vote against the precept rise, there were insufficient votes to veto the rise. Earlier, the Commissioner had revealed that 51% of respondents to his consultation had also rejected his proposal.
The increase means that the current PCC, who was elected as a Conservative but is now independent, will have increased the police council tax precept by nearly 30% during his term.
Commenting on the decision, Paul Kennedy said:
"The decision to press ahead with another large increase, when so many people are suffering financially, is unprecedented and outrageous; it creates a further crisis of legitimacy of the Conservatives' deeply flawed and derided PCC model.
"We have a former Conservative PCC, at the end of the 5th year of his term, overriding the concerns of the public and the Panel, and obeying the orders of Priti Patel and the
Conservative Government - imposing an inflation-busting increase on Surrey council tax payers, who already pay the highest share of police funding in the country.
Earlier Cllr Kennedy had challenged the PCC over his proposals, asking how he could justify such a large increase:
- when so many residents are suffering financially due to the pandemic
- when local councils, which have been hit much harder by the pandemic, have restricted their increases to less than 3%
- when the overall level of police funding is the same in real terms as it was in 2010, thanks to the already high level of the police council tax precept; and
- when the extra police investment the PCC is offering in return, after 5 years in post, frankly the PCC should already be providing.
Cllr Kennedy added:
"We all want to support our police. The Lib Dems and I support the extra investment in officers, victim support, rural crime and road safety, which my colleagues and I have been calling for. However, frankly after 5 years of council tax rises and minimal efficiency savings, we could and should be getting this already."
A statement from Bernie Spoor, Spelthorne representative on the PCC Panel.
I am aware that misinformation is spreading about my absence from this vote. This is the email of explanation I send to all Spelthorne Councillors following the meeting to leave residents under no uncertainty of my position:
It appears that I have been accused of "supporting" the proposed increase at Friday's PCC meeting where the committee was voting on the budget for 21/22.
The accusation is, as is often the case, Fake News. And like most Fake News the facts have not been ascertained, checked, or verified.
Though I was registered as being at the meeting for parts I had no connection to the meeting, my screen dropping from being at a meeting to being totally on my own solitary meeting. I am not sure if I would have been eligible to vote on the increase as I would have been absent from part of the increase discussion and was only reconnected at the completion when the vote was announced.
My vote would not have given the necessary two-thirds majority, of the full committee, to reject the increase. My vote, which would have been against, the reasoning being that this is the 3rd year of increase and the results are not evident to residents. The effort needed is on government to provide sufficient funds to one of its most supportive areas not assume that it is a safe zone.
The Police and Crime Commission does not feature highly in our local matters and there are enough of them to keep us involved. If there is anything where you would like more information on the workings of the PCC or police matters please contact me.